5 ways to celebrate 100 years of women’s right to vote

Commemorate the centennial of the 19th Amendment and engage in civic action today.

By Heidi Mitchell — August 17, 2020

While civic leaders are busy figuring out ways to safely execute a presidential election in November, women around the country are pausing this August to reflect on a major milestone: The centennial anniversary of the 19th Amendment, the landmark law that gave women the right to vote 144 years after America declared independence. It’s important to note, too, that although Black American women fought for and earned the right to vote with the 19th Amendment, universal suffrage was not truly achieved until the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  

Today, we see women engaged in civic life in ways the suffragists could likely never have imagined: They’re a majority in higher education, they lead major corporations, and organize political movements. This fall, they are expected to run for office in record numbers across the country and are involved in making real systemic change. Tracy Sturdivant, president and CEO of The League, an Atlanta-based social impact collective, says, “We are working at the center of culture and politics to awaken people’s imagination around civic involvement.” 

But you don’t need to start a social justice campaign or run for office to honor the women (and men) who fought for the 19th Amendment’s passage in 1920. Here are some ways you can exercise your freedoms and celebrate suffrage from the social-distanced safety of your own living room.


Online exhibits bring the suffragist movement to life through images, stories, and interactive activities. Rightfully Hers at the National Archives (where the amendment document actually lives) commemorates the milestone by taking a deep dive into American history. “Today, nearly 70 million women vote in elections because generations of suffragists refused to give up their fight for the ballot — a battle that persisted beyond 1920 for many women,” says curator Corinne Porter.

Triptych of pioneering suffragettes from the 1900s

Library of Congress | Smithsonian

Three titans of the women's suffrage movement: From left to right, Carrie Chapman Catt, Mary McLeod Bethune, and Susan B. Anthony.

The series Suff Buff, produced by the Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission in conjunction with the United States Congress, documents “herstory” through the struggles of well-known activists like Susan B. Anthony and lesser-known heroes such as Matilda Joslyn Gage, an Iroquois suffragist. It delves into the lives of Mary McLeod Bethune, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Ida B. Wells, and Hispanic suffragists like Nina Otero-Warren. If you like looking at other historic images, the National Portrait Gallery has posted its collection of images from the years that led up to the actual passage of the 19th Amendment. Votes for Women: A Portrait of Persistence captures the fashions and hairstyles of Lady Lobbyists, as well as the struggle for what “equality” meant to women like Sojourner Truth and Francis Ellen Watkins Harper. 

The interactive She Resisted: Strategies of Suffrage, part of PBS’s American Experience series, highlights — in color, for the first time — the strategies and tactics that began in 1850 and ran through 1920. Most people didn’t realize how hard these women fought, from going on hunger strikes to insisting on nonviolent resistance. Go at your own pace to learn about conventions, parades, street speaking, and even propaganda.  


Earlier this year, the New York Philharmonic debuted a multi-season initiative to commission and premiere 19 new works by 19 women composers in honor of the ratification of the 19th Amendment. Project 19 is the largest women-only commissioning initiative in history, and because we’re all at home, the first six works by the artists, such as Nina C. Young and Tanía Leon, are being broadcast on a curated Spotify playlist and through videos on YouTube. Through Project 19, the Philharmonic marks a “tectonic shift in American culture,” says president and CEO Deborah Borda, by giving women composers full representation in classical music and beyond. The Orchestra will premiere the remaining commissions in future seasons. 

Meanwhile you can commemorate the centennial of the passage and ratification of the 19th Amendment through NPR station WKMU’s podcast, Hindsight, a six-episode series hosted by historian Dr. Robin Henry. “I see this as an opportunity to consider the longer history of suffrage, its connections to other aspects of women’s activism and reform, and a chance to highlight lesser-known suffragists, in particular BIPOC women, who fought for suffrage while simultaneously fighting racism and ethnocentrism in the movement and larger society,” says Dr. Henry. “I think the vote is particularly important to consider now, not only in an election year, but also as we see a rise in social and political activism that is reigniting questions about citizenship, access to power, and attempting to address too-oft ignored concerns over systemic racism and misogyny.” Through the podcast, she demonstrates that the suffrage movement involves a complex history that still affects us today.


Utah was one of the first states to allow women to vote — more than 20 years ahead of the rest of the country. The Utah Heritage Society wants to educate the public on this little-known moment in its state history with the launch of Better Days 2020, a project that includes printable pages from the archives that celebrate the state’s historic first step 150 years ago. Download activities like designing your own suffragist sash or color images of famous suffragists who fought for their rights and won.

National Archives, Records of the U.S. Information Agency

Suffragists with poster and bonfire at the White House, Washington, DC, 1918.


Though theaters are dark and Broadway is on hold for a while, fortunately there are still artists getting their art out to the world. Finish the Fight is one of those rare plays that will thankfully premiere this summer. Written by playwright Ming Peiffer (Usual Girls), directed by 2020 Obie-winning  Whitney White (Our Dear Dead Drug Lord) and performed by a cast of top actresses, it tells the stories of the lesser-known suffragettes and activists who helped to women gain the right to vote. The play was commissioned by The New York Times and adapted from the forthcoming book Finish the Fight!: The Brave and Revolutionary Women Who Fought for the Right to Vote, written by Veronica Chambers, a Times senior editor, and journalists Jenny Schuessler, Amisha Padnani, Jennifer Harlan, Sandra Garcia, and Vivian Wang. A free performance is available at 7 p.m. EDT on Tuesday, August 18 to viewers who R.S.V.P. in advance

Until August 31, you can stream the two-part documentary And She Could Be Next, directed by Grace Lee and Marjan Safinia. The film follows women of color candidates and organizers across the country, including Stacey Abrams, Lucy McBath, Rashida Tlaib, and others who are transforming politics from the ground up. They have become household names as they try to preserve and strengthen American democracy for all — including marginalized groups.  In concert with a social media campaign from The League, the makers seek to “amplify the voices of women of color and show how, in this moment, their leadership is needed now more than ever,” according to Sturdivant.


Officially founded in Chicago in 1920 — just six months before the 19th Amendment was ratified — the League of Women Voters was formed by suffragists as a “mighty political experiment” designed to help 20 million women carry out their new responsibilities as voters. Today the organization follows the lead of its founders, helping all people find out the easiest ways to register, where to vote, and how to safely cast their ballots during this pandemic. They reach 10 million voters a year, and are always looking for volunteers to help get people to the polls — virtually or in masks. 

Make sure you are registered to vote and consider volunteering to be a poll worker. More than half the poll workers are over 61 and with older folks staying at home during the pandemic, we are facing a shortage. Volunteering at the polls is more essential than ever. Sign up and make all those women who marched 100 years ago proud.


Capturing the spirit of the Black Lives Matter movement in its iconic protest signs.