Local Women Look Forward and Back on Women's Suffrage

March 03, 2019 10:51 PM

(ABC 6 News) -- As we near the centennial anniversary of women’s right to vote, a group of women in Rochester took it upon themselves to learn more about the struggle that came before liberation.

Sunday, the Olmsted County Women’s History Circle and the Rochester League of Women Voters hosted an event called “Looking Forward and Looking Back on Women’s Suffrage in Minnesota.”


The Olmsted County History Center was packed full of people attending the lecture, hoping to learn more about this history of women in Rochester.

Executive Director of League of Women Voters Minnesota Michelle Witte said it’s important to look back on this part of history.

"I think it's really important to learn that—especially in the age of Twitter and Snapchat—democracy moves a little slower. But it depends on who shows up and helps to move their baton forward to the next place matters. You may not always see it, it may not always look like it, but in retrospect, that's what history does is show us the value of individuals participating throughout the process,” said Witte.

In her presentation, she focused on individuals in Rochester fighting for women’s right to vote.

She mentioned for example that in 1869 Sarah Burger Stearns, who was married to the Olmsted County Attorney, held the first meeting in Minnesota on women’s suffrage in her Rochester home.

Witte also said that in 1877, Susan B. Anthony visited Rochester and made a speech according to the Rochester Post.

Member of the Rochester League of Women Voters Amy Caucutt said it’s important to remember what these women went through to create change.

"It seems so obvious now but it did take 72 years and there was a lot of harassment, there was a lot of intimidation, there was actually incarceration," she said.

While Witte said a lot has changed, she added that there is still a long way to go.

"Voting rights as a whole still are often challenged. We are at the legislature still fighting today, testifying to try and make it easy to vote. It can be difficult to vote, certain people can't vote so we are still struggling today actually," she said.

The first Monday of each month, the women’s history circle meets at the history center to design programs promoting the preservation and sharing of women making the change. They say new members are welcome to join. 


Talia Milavetz

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