- About the Exhibit
Votes for Women: The Road to Victory is a beautifully rendered, eleven-panel exhibit that seamlessly blends original artwork with a visually stimulating overview of Women’s Suffrage history in celebration of the centennial of the 19th Amendment. The colorful and playful panels depict various themes and periods of American Suffrage on the local, state, and national levels, outlining significant campaigns and famous suffragists including key Connecticut and Ridgefield proponents. In addition, this provocative exhibit sheds light on the anti-suffragist movement, the exclusion of black women from white suffrage movements and the subsequent development of a parallel black suffrage movement, the ongoing fight for equal rights, and the continued disenfranchisement of women.
The exhibit is researched by the Ridgefield Historical Society and the League of Women Voters of Ridgefield, created by local artist Bil Mikulewicz, and curated by Dr. Heather Prescott, an expert in the field and a faculty member at Central Connecticut State University.
The Votes for Women: Ridgefield Celebrates the 19th Amendment series is co-sponsored by Ridgefield Library, Ridgefield Historical Society, the League of Women Voters of Ridgefield, Keeler Tavern Museum & History Center, and the Drum Hill Chapter of the DAR.
This program is supported by CT Humanities and Fairfield County Bank.
- Episode 1 - Panels 1, 2, and 3
Artist Bil Mikulewicz discusses his creative process for the first two panels of Votes for Women – The Road to Victory.
To see the panels in detail, click one of the images below. Once it has opened, click the grey button in the top-right corner to expand the image.
Panel 1: Introduction
Panel 2: The Road to the 19th Amendment
This panel is an overall timeline of the woman suffrage movement.
Panel 3: The National Movement, The Right is Ours
- Episode 2 - Panel 4: The National Movement
Artist Bil Mikulewicz discusses the challenges of Panel 4, The National Movement: Remember the Ladies for the exhibit. Images from the panel are shown in the gallery below the video.
Panel 4: The National Movement: Remember the Ladies
- Panel 5: The African American Suffrage Movement
The women’s suffrage movement had roots that were contemporaneous with the abolition movement; in fact, early suffragists after the 1840s chose to delay work on their cause in favor of the abolition of slavery. However, the late 19th Century saw a rift in which the suffrage movement began to take on racist overtones when, in 1870, the 15th Amendment gave black men the right to vote before women; this led to black women forming their own advocacy groups. Read more on the exhibit panel below. (After clicking the thumbnail, click the grey button in the upper right corner to enlarge the image.)
“O Dear, What Can the Matter Be?”
The following folk tune is a traditional English nursery rhyme attributed to the late 18th Century, and has been adapted and parodied numerous times over the years. In 1884, L. May Wheeler wrote lyrics to support the suffrage movement, as you can hear below. (You can read more about Wheeler here.)
- Panels 6 and 7: Two Roads, and Opposition
Panel 6: The National Movement: Two Different Roads
As leaders of the Congressional Union of the National American Woman Suffarage Association (NAWSA), suffragists Alice Paul and Lucy Burns disagreed with NAWSA’s Carrie Chapman Catt’s tactics and goals to win the vote for women. This led to their founding the National Woman’s Party (NWP, still active today). Schooled in the British suffrage movement’s militant tactics, Paul led an aggressive suffrage campaign while Catt pursued a more moderate, non-combative strategy. Both groups organized parades, pageants, rallies and speaking tours, but Paul often encouraged nonviolent civil disobedience.
Panel 7: Great Change Must Expect Opposition
A series of images depicting opposition to the Woman Suffrage movement.
- Panel 8: The Connecticut Movement
In 1869, Frances Ellen Burr and Isabella Beecher Hooker formed the Connecticut Woman Suffrage Association (CWSA) with the goal of winning the vote for women locally, state-wide, and nationally. Like many other states, CT was divided on the issue of woman suffrage, but CT suffragists were committed to the cause holding town meetings, rallies, demonstrations, parades, and other events to garner support for the vote.
- Panel 9: The Ridgefield Connection: The Town Responds
The important issues debated on the National Stage were heatedly discussed on the local level. Ridgefield suffragists worked tirelessly to convince those in power to “vote for women” and pass the 19th amendment despite “Anti” suffrage sentiments. As leaders of the Ridgefield Equal Franchise League formed in 1911, Mrs. Laura Allee, Mary Olcott, Mrs. James Stokes and others (including men like Laura’s husband, Dr. William Allee) wrote articles for the Ridgefield Press, spoke at meetings at town hall and other gatherings, and even took curtain calls at the intermission of a traveling dog show wielding a “Votes for Women” banner!