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From left, Barbara Hadley Smith, Sylvia Coffey and Doraine Bailey hold the proclamation from Gov. Andy Beshear declaring 2020 as the Year of Celebration of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. (Photo submitted)

After weeks of planning, tasks and food preparation, the day finally came — time to open the doors and welcome the guests for the Celebration of Kentucky’s Ratifying the 19th Amendment event at the Paul Sawyier Public Library Jan. 6.

It made us appreciate Susan B. Anthony, a real stickler for detail when preparing for the many conventions she organized: “Make the hall wear a lady-like appearance generally — for though we are strong-minded we do not wish to have things about us look mannish.”

And as Alice Paul said while preparing for the 1913 suffrage parade in Washington,“when you’re presenting something to the world make it as beautiful as you can.”

We wanted to celebrate and honor those Kentucky women who actually brought ratification of the Amendment to completion. We hung up our newly constructed Kentucky Equal Rights Association (KERA) banner, replicating the original as closely as possible. 

Chorus members wore white dresses with yellow sashes. Guests entered past a table where Friends of the Library were selling suffrage items to raise funds for the library. On the left was a wonderful display by the League of Women Voters, which is directly descended from the National American Woman Suffrage Association. 

At room center, another table held our replica of Alice Paul’s 1920 ratification flag. Each time another state ratified the 19th Amendment, she would sew another star on the flag.  With many hands helping, Kentucky’s star was sewn onto our 2020 version, with special stitching around the Kentucky star to make it stand out. 

Lining the walls were bulletin board displays with pictures of suffragists and their quotes, a copy of the last KERA Convention program Jan. 5-7, 1920, and a picture of Gov. Morrow signing Kentucky’s ratification bill, with ladies looking on.  

After food and socializing, the program began with a welcome by Jean Ruark, library executive director, followed by introduction of Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman by Barbara Hadley Smith. The honor of having Coleman speak, and then read Gov. Andy Beshear’s Proclamation, was the evening’s highlight, giving this centennial celebration proper recognition. 

Representing the city of Frankfort, Blair Hecker shared information on Frankfort’s Thousand Woman March to be held Saturday, Aug. 22. This will be a day of celebration of the goal completed — Women Vote! Other elected officials attending were recognized, followed by the Women’s Suffrage Centennial Chorus sharing three original songs. Words were provided and audience participation was lively.  

Two attendees descended from original suffragists were recognized. Sallie Clay Lanham is a great-granddaughter of Mary Barr Clay, who is credited with beginning women suffrage efforts in Kentucky, as well as arranging for Susan B. Anthony to speak in Kentucky. 

Another is Eleanor Hume Peavy, whose grandmother, Eleanor Marion Hume Offutt, was one of the women in a picture with Gov. Morrow. Kristel Smith, of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, spoke of the history of the sorority, founded by 22 young African-American women and their participation in the 1913 suffragist parade in Washington. The sorority continues its good works today. Together Frankfort’s third anniversary was acknowledged by Karen Armstrong-Cummings.

A documentary film, “Dreamers & Doers: VOICES of Kentucky Women,” produced for the Kentucky Commission on Women, was enjoyed with clapping and cheering for the many courageous Kentucky women honored in the film. It is hoped that this important commission, focused on advancement of women, will soon be reinstated.

Jan. 6, 2020, was a very special evening, one of those occasions when each part — the setting, presenters and attendees — complimented the whole.

The event was hosted by Women Suffrage Centennial Celebration and Chorus. Members in attendance were Joyce Albro, Nancy Atcher, Doraine Bailey, Tona Barkley, Christina Benson, Mary Ann Burch, Judy Catlett, Sylvia Coffey, musician Don Coffey, Polly Lakes, Lane Lewis, Brenda Parker and Barbara Hadley Smith. Members unable to attend were Peg Harmon and Linda Stopper. 

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