The 3,000-square-foot exhibit, entitled The 19th Amendment: How Women Won the Vote, will open to the public on June 10 and feature nearly 100 artifacts from the era
Philadelphia, PA - On June 10, the National Constitution Center will open The 19th Amendment: How Women Won the Vote, tracing the triumphs and struggles that led to the ratification of the 19th Amendment. The exhibit will feature some of the many women who transformed constitutional history—including Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Alice Paul, and Ida B. Wells—and will allow visitors to better understand the long fight for women’s suffrage.
“The ratification of the 19th Amendment extended the Constitution’s promise of equal citizenship to women, underscoring the core values of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution,” said National Constitution Center President and CEO Jeffrey Rosen. “The National Constitution Center is thrilled to open an exhibit that will inspire and educate visitors about the visionary women who worked to secure this landmark amendment, which prohibits discrimination in voting rights ‘on account of sex.’”
The 3,000-square-foot exhibit will feature nearly 100 artifacts, including Lucretia Mott’s diary, a rare printing of the Declaration of Sentiments from the first women’s convention at Seneca Falls, a ballot box used to collect women’s votes in the late 1800s, a letter from jail written by a White House picketer, Pennsylvania’s ratification copy of the 19th Amendment, as well as various “Votes for Women” ephemera. A selected list of confirmed artifacts is featured below.
Beginning in the 1840s, The 19th Amendment: How Women Won the Vote will trace the roots of the women’s rights movement in early reform work and the ultimate decision to pursue voting rights. It will highlight the constitutional arguments and historical context of the fight for suffrage over 70 years, as well as the tactics suffragists used to persuade state legislatures and the national government to recognize voting rights for women. To experience these tactics, visitors will be immersed in the large-scale parades and White House picketing that defined the final few years of the movement. The exhibit will also feature a media interactive that will enable visitors to explore the state-level campaigns for suffrage, as well as a separate interactive capturing the debates for and against a national women’s suffrage amendment. The story will culminate with the ratification of the 19th Amendment—where visitors will be able to view Pennsylvania’s own copy of the amendment—and trace its impact, including the push for equal rights that followed ratification in 1920.
As part of the Drafting Table, a feature of the National Constitution Center’s Interactive Constitution, The 19th Amendment will also include a third media interactive allowing visitors to explore the creation and drafting of the 19th Amendment text and the key events that led to its eventual ratification. This interactive will also be incorporated into the Center’s online Interactive Constitution platform, which has received more than 30 million views since its launch and will ensure key content in the exhibit is accessible to classrooms across America.
Building on the National Constitution Center’s newest permanent exhibit, Civil War and Reconstruction: The Battle for Freedom and Equality, The 19th Amendment: How Women Won the Vote will explore the continuing quest to extend the equal liberty promised by the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution to African Americans and women. The exhibit will examine how the women’s rights movement grew alongside the anti-slavery movement and ultimately gained momentum during Reconstruction as part of the ongoing battle for freedom and equality for all. The 19th Amendment will also feature a one-actor theatrical performance based on the words of Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, a key African American writer and activist who was integral to the 19th-century anti-slavery and suffrage movements.
To assist in the development of The 19th Amendment, the National Constitution Center assembled a diverse panel of America’s leading scholars to serve as an advisory board. Scholars include Bettye Collier-Thomas, professor of history at Temple University; Gail Heriot, professor of law at the University of San Diego; Reva Siegel, Nicholas deB. Katzenbach Professor of Law at Yale Law School; and Lisa Tetrault, associate professor at Carnegie Mellon University.
The exhibit has been supported by the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, John P. & Anne Welsh McNulty Foundation, Mauree Jane and Mark W. Perry, The McLean Contributionship, and SteegeThomson Communications. Additional exhibit details will be posted to constitutioncenter.org/upcoming-exhibits when available.
The 19th Amendment: How Women Won the Vote is a key component of the National Constitution Center’s Women and the Constitution initiative, a yearlong effort to convene America’s top women leaders and scholars to examine the historical and constitutional background of the 19th Amendment and the importance of equal citizenship for women today. The initiative will include a series of public programs, podcast episodes, and special events. The Center is also a proud partner of Vision2020’s Women 100, a celebration of American women in the year 2020, in honor of the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment.
About the National Constitution Center
The National Constitution Center in Philadelphia brings together people of all ages and perspectives, across America and around the world, to learn about, debate, and celebrate the greatest vision of human freedom in history, the U.S. Constitution. A private, nonprofit organization, the Center serves as America’s leading platform for constitutional education and debate, fulfilling its congressional charter “to disseminate information about the U.S. Constitution on a nonpartisan basis.” As the Museum of We the People, the Center brings the Constitution to life for visitors of all ages through interactive programs and exhibits. As America’s Town Hall, the Center brings the leading conservative and liberal thought leaders together to debate the Constitution on all media platforms. As a Headquarters for Civic Education, the Center delivers the best educational programs and online resources that inspire citizens and engage all Americans in learning about the U.S. Constitution. For more information, call 215-409-6700 or visit constitutioncenter.org.
Highlights from a confirmed list of artifacts follows.
- Declaration of Sentiments from the first women’s rights convention at Seneca Falls, 1848 (Anonymous Collection)
- Lucretia Mott’s diary from the World Anti-Slavery Convention in London, 1840 (Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College)
- Reproduction of the Petition for Universal Suffrage, 1866 (National Archives)
- Ballot box used to collect women’s votes, ca. 1870-92 (Collection of Ronnie Lapinsky Sax)
- “Vote YES on the woman suffrage amendment” poster, 1915 (On loan from The Galbraith Family 2012 Trust)
- Letter from Philadelphia suffragist Dora Lewis—a White House picketer—written from jail, 1917 (The Historical Society of Pennsylvania)
- American Red Cross armband, ca. 1917-18 (National WWI Museum and Memorial)
- “As a War Measure” suffrage broadside, ca. 1918 (Frank Amari, Jr.)
- Pennsylvania’s ratification copy of the 19th Amendment, 1920 (Pennsylvania State Archives)
- Poll tax receipt, 1922 (National Constitution Center Collection)
- Reproduction of the Voting Rights Act, 1965 (National Archives)
Merissa V. Blum
National Constitution Center
525 Arch Street I Philadelphia, PA I 19106
T: 215-409-6645 I C: 215-370-0387