The American Democracy Project (ADP) and the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning at Illinois State University are hosting a presentation to commemorate Constitution Day. “From the Lobby to the Street: Strategies Used by Voting Activists in the Early 20th Century” will be presented by Kyle Ciani at 2 p.m. on Thursday, September 19, in the Escalante Room of Hewett/Manchester Halls. The event is free and open to the public.
This year marks the centennial of Congress passing the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote. Ratification of the amendment happened in August 1920. According to ADP co-leader Jackie Lanier, ADP and the center want to celebrate this momentous achievement and give students some context and history about the work that was done to achieve this victory. “The presentation will also help reinforce the message that voting matters,” Lanier said. “We need educated, informed, registered voters to protect the Constitution and the rights afforded to its citizens.”
Ciani, an associate professor of history and core faculty for the Women’s and Gender Studies Program at Illinois State, is also a proponent of commemorating Constitution Day. “I will always support people learning more about their constitutional rights, and Constitution Day is one piece of that learning,” said Ciani. As a historian, she also endorses students learn more about historical activism, specifically women’s suffrage in the early 20th century. “I think it is a good reminder for people to understand the suffrage protests of the early 20th century within their historical context—there was certainly danger involved in their activism—and not as an antiquated meme or gif that is found on Pinterest. These activists fought for the right to vote and that seems to be lost in the historical conversation about suffrage. Many of them were in their 20s—typical ages of ISU students—and I’d like students to see these activists as models for their own engagement in constitutional rights.”
Ciani specializes in the histories of women and gender across the Americas, with a focus on social justice issues. She is involved with efforts by museum professionals to diversify exhibition spaces, such as through the National Women’s History Museum. Her new book, Choosing to Care: One Hundred Years of Childcare and Social Reform in San Diego, 1850–1950, will be available in October.
If you have any questions about the presentation, or if you need any accommodations in order to participate in the event, contact the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning at (309) 438-1100 or CommunityEngagement@IllinoisState.edu.