By Paula Steiner
The Virginia Federation Republican Women (VFRW) met on Sunday, June 2, 2019, at the Lorton Workhouse Museum to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the Congressional Passage of the 19th Amendment. This historical amendment forbade states from denying the right to vote on the basis of sex.
The museum’s “Struggle at the Workhouse” exhibit depicts the ordeal of brave women imprisoned at the Occoquan Workhouse who were key to gaining passage of the 19th Amendment. During Woodrow Wilson’s administration, women suffragists protesting in front of the White House were arrested and sent either to the Occoquan Workhouse or the District of Columbia jail. Life-size figures and explanations recreate the image of women, such as Lucy Burns, enduring the torturous process of force-feeding. The hunger strike was a strategy used to draw attention to their imprisonment.
Included in the event activities was a historical re-enactment of the life of suffragist Mrs. Robert Walker. This presentation included the rally speeches recreating the days of the suffragist movement. We were reminded of the amazing accomplishments women have achieved. VFRW President Mary Franklin commented, “All who attended were inspired by the bravery of the suffragists and the sacrifices they made to bring us to this point in history.”
As Republican women, it is important to recall that it was when the Republican party regained control of Congress in 1919 that the 19th Amendment finally passed the House on May 21 and in the Senate on June 4. “The June 4th Senate passage was the inspiration for our event,” noted VFRW Second Vice President Bonnie Burkhardt, while discussing the hidden Republican history of the congressional vote.
The VFRW was joined by Rebecca Kleefisch, executive director of the Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission. This commission was created by Congress to coordinate and execute the country’s activities related to the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, the important passage of women’s right to vote. “It is rewarding to see the VFRW and so many women’s organizations across the country lift up the history of women’s rights,” Kleefisch said. “From now until August 26, 2020, we will commemorate centennials across the country of states ratifying this special right. It is great to pause and reflect on this hard-fought victory 100 years later.”
Paula Steiner is first vice president of programs for the Virginia Federation of Republican Women. To learn more, visit VFRW.org.