[note: speech also delivered in Washington, DC on 3/16/04]
IN HONOR OF WOMEN'S HISTORY MONTH -- (Extensions of Remarks - March 18, 2004)
HON. RON KIND
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
THURSDAY, MARCH 18, 2004
Mr. KIND. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in honor of Women's History Month. In 1987, Congress passed a resolution designating the month of March as Women's History Month as a time to honor, "American women of every race, class and ethnic background [who] have made historic contributions to the growth and strength of our Nation in countless recorded and unrecorded ways."
For 2004, the theme of Women's History Month is "Women Inspiring Hope and Possibility." To celebrate this month, I would like to honor four of the numerous women from Wisconsin's history who inspired hope and possibility through their selfless efforts in gaining suffrage for women in America.
First, I would like to recognize Ada James, who served as president of the Political Equality League from 1911 to 1919. As a dedicated women's suffrage advocate, Ms. James spent these eight years preceding the ratification of the suffrage amendment to the U.S. Constitution on an automobile tour through Southern Wisconsin. She spoke at state and county fairs, and to farmers and workers in factories with her fellow suffragists. Ms. James was a native of Richland Center, a city in Wisconsin's Third Congressional District, and I am honored to be able to share Ms. James' story here.
Reverend Olympia Brown resided in Racine, Wisconsin, where she was elected president of the Wisconsin Women's Suffrage Association, holding this post for 30 years. Reverend Brown lived a life of activism, and after being refused at Wisconsin polls, she took her case to the State Supreme Court. Despite a decision rendered in favor of the election inspectors, she never accepted defeat. She continued to fight for women's right to vote, and was one of the few suffrage leaders who lived to be able to cast a vote in the Presidential election of 1920--the first in which women could vote.
As the first Wisconsin-born leader of the state's suffrage movement, Theodora Winton Youmans was able to help the movement gain momentum by writing a regular column for the Waukesha Freeman. She used her column as a platform to educate the public about suffrage and women's rights. After leaving her post as assistant editor in the 1890s, Ms. Youmans worked to create the Wisconsin Federation of Women's Clubs, serving as its president in 1900. In 1924, she lost a bid to Congress, and it was not until nearly 75 years later that Wisconsin would see its first Congresswoman with the election of TAMMY BALDWIN in 1999, who continues to represent Wisconsin women today.
Lastly, but certainly not least, I would like to honor the achievements of Carrie Lane Chapman Catt. As a native of Ripon, Wisconsin, she played the largest role in the final passage of the 19th Amendment. Her campaign was successful because she pushed for reform in the states, instead of focusing solely on a constitutional amendment. In 1900, she succeeded Susan B. Anthony as the president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association. Following ratification of the amendment, her leadership abilities were not forgotten as she helped establish the League of Women Voters, which is still active today. I think I speak for all people from Wisconsin when I say that we are fortunate to have had such a remarkable woman in our history.
These four women, along with so many others, inspired hope and possibility not only in Wisconsin, but across the United States. I have no doubt that their devotion to the cause was the sole reason why Wisconsin was the first state to ratify the 19th Amendment on June 10th, 1919. I am honored to share these women's stories today, as their efforts made Wisconsin a leader in this landmark roll call of democracy. In many ways, their hopes are still with us today. As a reflection of this, I will end my statement with a quotation from Carrie Chapman Catt: "Everybody counts in applying democracy. And there will never be a true democracy until every responsible and law-abiding adult in it, without regard to race, sex, color or creed has his or her own inalienable and unpurchasable voice in government."