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2020 marked the 100th Anniversary of Congress ratifying the 19th Amendment to the U.S. constitution, which made it illegal to prevent a woman from voting based on her sex. Lighting the Way commemorated the women’s suffrage centennial and its unfinished legacy all year, and celebrated the fact that Massachusetts ratified the amendment a year earlier on June 25, 1919. To mark that day, the project released its 100th profile. Rosemary S. Tierney (1932-2020), the first woman to be elected mayor of the City of New Bedford, was the 100th woman to be included in the project.

woman holding vote signLighting the Way invited the community to mark the centennial of women’s suffrage (the right to vote) by:

  Exploring stories of civically engaged historic women of the SouthCoast on this website.
  Attending one of the many Lighting the Way Suffrage Centennial events. Lighting the Way Calendar
  Encouraging all women (and men) to exercise their constitutional right to vote.

An Unfinished Legacy

The march towards universal adult suffrage was a winding path in the 19th and 20th centuries. The 19th Amendment prevented voting discrimination based on sex, but in practice, many women of color and many poor women could not vote because of other laws and restrictions.

There were women in the SouthCoast, who may not have identified as suffragists, but who worked to secure rights and voting access for these women as well as for men who did not have it. Many women worked on voting rights for African American men, and 2020 marks another important milestone in voting rights history: the 150th anniversary of the 15th Amendment, which states that the right to vote cannot be denied based on race.

Women Making Change

Even without sanctioned political power, women have found many ways to be civically engaged. On this website, you can explore stories of SouthCoast women who worked tirelessly and effectively to make change, build communities, and help people.

How to find stories of civically engaged Lighting the Way women

Use keywords and search functions:

  • In the search box, choose your own keyword or select one of the categories listed. Some filters to try are: Activism, Social Justice, Voting Rights, or Women’s Rights.
  • At the bottom of each woman’s profile story is a section called “Related Profiles.” Four other women are suggested with pictures. Below those are keywords that will link you to other women with the same keyword. Some examples of keywords are: Civic Engagement, Labor Rights, or Law & Politics.
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