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Stockton programs highlight women's fight for equal rights

Stockton programs highlight women's fight for equal rights

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An exhibit that tells the story of the long battle women fought to get the right to vote is on display at Stockton’s University’s Campus Center in Galloway Township and the John F. Scarpa Academic Center in Atlantic City.

The pop-up exhibit, “Rightfully Hers,” produced by the National Archives, celebrates the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment. It will remain on display through Election Day in November.

Stockton University Professor of Political Science Linda Wharton, who helped bring the exhibit to Stockton, said the fight for the right to vote was not easy and took decades of advocacy.

“Women were not ‘given’ the right to vote,” Wharton said. “It came about after decades of struggle and political advocacy. They fought for it by lobbying, picketing, holding hunger strikes and parades.”

Wharton continued, “We can best honor our suffrage foremothers by exercising our right to vote this fall.”

Wharton said most people also don’t realize the diversity of the women involved. “There is a tendency to think it was all white women and that is not the case,” she said. “Black women and other women of color were key leaders in the suffrage struggle in the face of racist efforts by other suffragists to exclude them. The exhibit features a section on Black women who banded together to fight for the right to vote."

Wharton said even after the 19th Amendment was ratified, voter suppression efforts in some states made it difficult for some women, and especially Black women, to vote.

Wharton, an advocate for the Equal Rights Amendment, said the 19th Amendment only extended to voting, and the Equal Rights Amendment is still needed.

“That’s why our work is unfinished,” said Wharton, who is also an attorney and serves on the ERA Coalition’s national Legal Task Force.

Stockton will also feature equality rights at its Constitution Day lecture 6 p.m. Sept. 22 when author Julie Chi-hye Suk, a visiting professor of law at Yale University, will speak in a Zoom lecture. Her new book, “We, the Women: The Unstoppable Mothers of the Equal Rights Amendment,” tells the story of the women who helped shape the ERA. The lecture is open to the public. Registration in online at Stockton’s Constitution Day web page, stockton.edu/constitution-day.

In January 2020, Virginia became the 38th state to ratify the ERA, the minimum number of states needed to make it law. Congress had passed a bill setting a deadline for ratification by 1982, but the ERA has been reintroduced every year since, and in February 2020 the House passed a joint resolution to remove the time limit. The Senate has not acted on that resolution.

The Stockton exhibit was coordinated by Wharton, Assistant Professor of Political Science Claire Abernathy who chairs the Political Engagement Project at Stockton, Director of Alumni Relations Sara Faurot, and Giancarlo Brugnolo, associate director of Event Services and Campus Center Operations. The exhibit is free and open to the public. Masks are required in all Stockton facilities.

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