“She Changed the World/Women Breaking Barriers,” an event honoring the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote, was held in the old Capitol Building in Raleigh on Saturday, Sept. 7. Those attending from Moore County are (from left) Mary Lou Bernett, Joan Matula, Jay Emery, Jo Nicholas, LWV North Carolina president, and Peggy Crawford. Also attending but not pictured are Charlotte Gallagher and Ann Torok.

In February 1920, Carrie Chapman Catt founded The League of Women Voters based on the presumptive passage of the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution, giving women the right to vote. Soon after the final vote, Gertrude Wiel, of Goldsboro, founded The League of Women Voters of North Carolina. Currently there are over 800 local chapters of the League across the nation, including the Moore County chapter, which was founded in 1987.

The battle for the right to vote began in 1848 in Seneca Falls, N.Y., with the first Women’s Rights Convention. It took 72 years of hard work, marching, protesting, speaking out and, in many cases, pain, to finally win enfranchisement for women, ending with the official ratification by the U.S. secretary of state on Aug. 26, 1920.

In recognition of this historic event, the League of Women Voters of Moore County has announced a yearlong centennial celebration of women’s right to vote. Many activities and projects are being planned by the local League to celebrate not only the passage of the 19th Amendment, but the entire suffrage movement.

The celebration will kick off on Jan. 29, 2020, with a matinee screening of the movie “Iron Jawed Angels” at the Sunrise Theater in Southern Pines. This full-length, feature film depicts the final years of the suffrage movement, starring Hilary Swank and Anjelica Huston. There will be a reception following the screening at The Jefferson Inn. The movie and reception are open to the public, and there is no charge.

In March, the League’s annual “Lunch With Legends” scholarship fundraising event will be presented with emphasis on the passage of the amendment. Guests will learn about the last years of the fight, up to and including the ratification of the necessary 35 states.

In addition, the League will be working throughout the year, in conjunction with Moore County Schools, to provide a readers’ theater presentation of the story of the Seneca Falls Convention to the local high schools; have costumed suffragettes visit elementary schools to read a book about the 19th Amendment to students in a classroom or during library time; to create a traveling museum display about women’s suffrage that will be set up at each high school and middle school; and to donate books to elementary schools about the 19th Amendment.

Throughout the summer parade season, costumed Moore County “suffragists” will appear atop their “Because they Marched” float depicting the “silent sentinels” who famously picketed Woodrow Wilson’s White House, demanding that he support the cause for women’s right to vote.

The celebration will wind down on Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020, with a grand 1920s “We Got the Vote Garden Party.” The event will feature live jazz, great food and beverages, and lots of celebrating, ’20s’-style, all on the beautiful grounds and gardens of the Weymouth Center in Southern Pines.

Finally, the League has created a presentation titled “The Story of Suffrage” to present to various groups and organizations throughout the county. This presentation is performed by costumed suffragists, and accompanied by a media show that includes photos and film clips of the actual marches that took place in Washington, D.C., New York City, and other cities. The presentation is available to any group or organization that would like to learn more about the 72-year battle for women’s right to vote.

For 100 years it has been the mission of the League of Women Voters, a strictly nonpartisan organization of men and women throughout the country, to encourage informed and active participation in government, working to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and to influence public policy through information and advocacy

For more information on the League of Women Voters Centennial Celebration, visit www.becausetheymarched.com or www.lwvmc.org. If you or someone you know is interested in having the League present “The Story of Suffrage” to your group, contact Mary Lou Bernett at (910) 692-8839 or maryloubernett@gmail.com to schedule a presentation. This presentation is available currently, and will continue to be available throughout 2020.

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