GVSU highlights the role of local women in history

Ottawa County

ALLENDALE, Mich. (WOOD) — As part of its annual Local History Roundtable program, Grand Valley State University is hosting a series of virtual presentations this Women’s History Month. 

The first featured nationally recognized scholars Liette Gidlow and Alison Lange as well as Sohpia Brewer, the director of the Greater Grand Rapids Women’s History Council. 

The presentation focused on women’s suffrage and the broader movement toward civil rights for Black, indigenous, people of color. 

History experts say suffrage has been a part of Michigan’s history for a long time. Grand Rapids in particular was connected to both the state and national suffrage association. As early as 1829, there was a national conference hosted in Grand Rapids which Susan B. Anthony actually attended.  

Brewer said women have come a long way since getting the right to vote, which is why the Women’s History Council is working to highlight local leaders.

“There was a time when after women got the right to vote that they immediately start running for offices here in Grand Rapids and around the state. One of the projects that the Greater Grand Rapids Women’s History Council is working on is the Women Who Ran project,” she said.

The project celebrates the stories of local women who ran as candidates in local, state and national elections. 

Historians say even after getting the right to vote, women still remained disenfranchised. After the 19th Amendment was passed, it took women even longer to get the right to sit on a jury and even longer than that for women to have full access to things like credit.

Panelists say there continues to be a debate about the role of women even today, adding that the efforts of the past should continue.

“Struggles for women’s rights have always been a part of a broader effort for inclusion for women of all backgrounds in the full range of civic rights that are available to Americans,” said women’s history expert and Wayne State University Associate Professor Liette Gidlow.

The next virtual panel will take place on March 17 and will focus on lesser-known women in West Michigan’s history. 

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