League of Women Voters Oklahoma/Oklahoma City Honor 100 Oklahoma Women Trailblazers

by Susan Broadbent

Oklahoma City, OK — 100 women were recognized as Oklahoma Woman Trailblazers by the League of Women Voters of Oklahoma at a gala event commemorating the 100th anniversary of Oklahoma women winning the right to vote in 1918. The Trailblazers are included in “100 Oklahoma Women Trailblazers,” a project recognizing 100 women from the last 100 years, for their work in shaping Oklahoma and inspiring generations of women to come . A commemorative booklet, “100 Oklahoma Women Trailblazers,” prepared by Dr. Heather Clemmer, Dr. Lauren Brand, and their students at the Southern Nazarene University history department was presented to those attending the gala and featured in a video produced by Markus Zindelo and students at Oklahoma City Community College, documenting the Trailblazers project. Fifteen Trailblazers attended the event.

Top Row: Dr. Nyla Khan, Delaware Nation President Deborah Dotson, Judge Reta Strubhar, Governor Mary Fallin, Veronica Laizure, Dr. Ayanna Najuma, Nancy Ward. The Honorable Jari Askins Second Row: Jeanna Sellmeyer, Willa Johnson, Terry Neese, Bernice Mitchell, Sharon Bishop, Mary Bishop, Kalyn Free
Photo by Carl Shortt Jr.

The event, “100 Years: Women Building a More Perfect Democracy,” opened with “The Fashions of Women’s Suffrage”– a historical fashion show by staff and volunteers of the Oklahoma Historical Society. Following the welcome by Governor Mary Fallin, Dr. Bob Blackburn, Oklahoma History Center executive director, highlighted stories from the fight for women’s suffrage in his talk, “Chicanery, Characters, and Champions.” Civic leader, Tricia Everest, shared stories of her great aunt, Edith Kinney Gaylord, an early female journalist who made history as the first woman on the Associated Press Washington, D.C. bureau general news staff. Dr. Sunu Kodumthara, Southwestern Oklahoma State University professor, closed with a message about the continuing struggle to achieve equality and create a more perfect democracy and issued a call to action.

The centennial celebration occurred almost exactly 100 years after the male voters in Oklahoma approved a state question amending the Oklahoma Constitution to extend the right to vote to women in Oklahoma on November 5, 1918. Several of the 100 women trailblazers honored in the booklet were present, as were members of the League of Women Voters of Lawton, Norman, Tulsa, Bartlesville, Stillwater, and the newly formed Oklahoma City League of Women Voters.

Suffrage was hard-fought victory.

Met with resistance and prejudice hard to contemplate today, the struggle for women’s suffrage lasted more than seven decades, throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries. The Oklahoma suffrage fight began during territorial days and was a major issue at the Oklahoma state constitutional convention in 1906. Failing to get the constitutional delegates to bring Oklahoma into the Union as a suffrage state, the women suffragists continued their efforts until achieving victory more than a decade later.

League of Women Voters formed to educate and empower

The League of Women Voters was formed in 1920, designed to help 20 million women carry out their new responsibilities as voters. The League encouraged women to use their new power to participate in shaping public policy. From the beginning, the League has been an activist, grassroots organization whose leaders believed that citizens should play a critical role in advocacy. It was then, and is now, a nonpartisan organization. For more information about the League of Women Voters of Oklahoma, visit our website at LWVOK.org or find us on Facebook

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