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Worcester celebrates 100th anniversary of Women’s Suffrage

For Immediate Release: 8/10/2020 3:50 pm

The City of Worcester, in collaboration with over a dozen community partners, will celebrate Women’s Equality Day and the centennial anniversary of the 19th Amendment’s ratification with a series of events this month.

A Worcester Women’s Suffrage Working Group has met regularly since January 2020, discussing how to best celebrate the centennial anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Made up of local leaders, creatives and activists, the working group “recognizes the many challenges women have faced historically, and continue to face daily, to ensure their voices are heard. The group is excited to celebrate Worcester’s role in the suffrage movement and highlight contemporary activists from the community,” according to Yaffa Fain, Program Assistant for the City of Worcester’s Cultural Development Division.

The main event, “Worcester Women Changemakers: A Celebration of Women’s Equality Day and Suffrage,” takes place 7-8 p.m., Wednesday, Aug. 26, and can be viewed through the City of Worcester’s Facebook page and public access channels. The program will feature a panel discussion, performances and a series of readings highlighting diverse historical and contemporary voices. All content centers around the Women’s Suffrage Movement, voter registration and activation, female empowerment, and community activism. The City of Worcester and Worcester Cultural Coalition will produce “Worcester Women’s Changemakers” with community organizers, local leaders, cultural and historical institutions, artists and youth groups.

“Worcester played a unique role in the fight for women’s rights,” Erin Williams, the City’s Cultural Development Officer, said. “Thanks to our location and Worcester’s long history with activism, Worcester County was home to many suffragists, and Worcester was the site of the first two National Women’s Rights Convention in 1850 and 1851 – 70 years before the passage of the 19th Amendment.”

“While more work was needed to ensure voting rights to all,” Williams added, “ratification of the 19th Amendment was an important step toward that goal.”

“When women and people of color were denied the right to vote, their perspectives and concerns weren’t included in creating policy,” Massachusetts Senate President Emerita Harriette Chandler said. “When these perspectives and concerns are challenged as they have been in recent years, you see record numbers of women and people of color on voting day – not just to vote, but on the ballot as well. Representation matters, representation empowers real progress at all levels. The power of women is no longer a question, but an answer to the problems plaguing our world.”

City Manager Edward M. Augustus Jr. said Worcester is excited to celebrate 100 years of the Women’s Suffrage movement.

“We are proud of the City’s history in advancing women’s rights,” Augustus said. “With help from dedicated groups such as the Advisory Committee on the Status of Women, we continue to work toward greater equality and opportunities for all women in Worcester.”

Additional events from the Worcester Women’s Suffrage Working Group include:
• Aug. 12, 6 p.m.: Voting in 2020/Getting Out The Vote. The League of Women Voters, in conjunction with MA Women of Color Coalition, Worcester Voter Registration Initiative, and the City of Worcester’s City Clerk, will present a webinar with speaker Senator Harriet Chandler.
• Aug. 24, 7-7:30 p.m.: Madame Secretary, Francis Perkins. The Worcester Historical Museum’s fifth “PRETTY POWERFUL” program is a one-person show written and performed by Ann Marie Shea. During the Great Depression, the stock market crash of 1929 led to massive unemployment and foreclosures, and in 1933 the new president handed these problems to Frances Perkins – a woman. This engaging show highlights Perkins’ private and professional challenges, including her actual words and excerpts from “The Roosevelt I Knew,” by Frances Perkins, used by permission of Curtis Brown Ltd., all rights reserved.
• Aug. 26: Suffrage100MA will host a virtual commemorative event with speakers including Gov. Charlie Baker, First Lady Lauren Baker, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, and more. (Time TBA)
• Aug. 27, 12 p.m.: Women at WAM, Highlights from the Collection. In honor of Worcester Women’s Suffrage, the Worcester Art Museum has created a video with highlighting the artwork of women, as well as works of art that celebrate the powerful impact of women on our nation’s history in its collection.
• Aug. 27, 6-7 p.m.: Women of Consequence Award Ceremony. The City of Worcester Advisory Committee on the Status of Women (ACSW) celebrates the 2020 Women of Consequence. These Awards are given in recognition of women who have shown great leadership and tangible results as an agent of change in Worcester. The 2020 Award recognizes Etel Haxhiaj as its Woman of Consequence, and Safiya Nafai as the Youth Woman of Consequence. Worcester Youth Poet Laureate Amina Mohammed will perform, and Boston City Councilor At-Large Julia Mejia will deliver a keynote address.

Partners in Worcester Women’s Suffrage events include 4th Wall Stage Company, ArtsWorcester, Greater Worcester Community Foundation, Guertin Graphics, Latino Education Institute, Massachusetts State Rep. Marry Keefe, Massachusetts Sen. Harriette Chandler, Preservation Worcester, Suffrage100MA, Worcester Center for Crafts, Worcester Historical Museum, Worcester League of Women Voters, and the Worcester Women’s Oral History Project.

Initial plans for a march, in-person voter registration, live performances, and other festive activities were adjusted to virtual programming due to COVID-19. The full schedule of programs is being finalized and can be viewed at https://worcesterculture.org/19th.

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