As an employee of the University of Mary Washington, I answered the campus-wide call to submit ideas to celebrate Women’s History Month. I responded hoping I would get the greenlight to produce “Give Us the Vote,” as a virtual production. Happily, it was accepted. This play was one of three vignettes written to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the passing of the 19th Amendment.
On February 28th, the cast and production crew met at the private home of Mrs. Blake. A woman of many talents, she has been wardrobe and props mistress, director and producer of past Untold Stories productions which focuses on little-known historical stories of real-life people. This time, she offered her home as our theatrical venue.
Here is a synopsis of the play: Between 1912 and 1916, Virginia suffragists petitioned the General Assembly three times to amend the state constitution to give women the right to vote.
The third time occurred on March 13, 1916, the setting of our play. Suffragists leaders: Kate Waller Barrett, Janetta Fitzhugh, Janie Porter and Adele Clark are preparing to lead members of the Equal Suffrage League of Virginia from their Richmond headquarters to the State Capitol to present their petition.
The suffrage movement had many detractors from the halls of government to the church pulpit. The women in the play are about to meet one such adversary, an uninvited guest, and one of the most outspoken and prominent opponents of women’s right to vote.
Brave women, through education and advocation, sometimes sacrificed their jobs, marriages and reputations in order to persuade the all male government to grant women the right to vote. Black women had to fight racism in general and within the national ranks of the suffragist movement whose leaders made it clear their efforts were not wanted. At the first national convention of women at Seneca Falls, New York, the only black person admitted was a man, Frederick Douglass. A host of national black women’s suffragists organizations were refused admittance. After the vote was granted to women in 1920, the white female leaders told black suffragists to march in the back of the parade and not with their individual states. Pride and a determination caused some black women to defy this directive. After all, the victory was theirs, as well. Of course, not all white women were of the same mind. One lady in particular, Adele Clark organized protection for black women at the voting polls.
My play focused on four extraordinary Virginian women, leaders in their communities, who forged ahead, despite the opposition and finally won their right to vote. The Virginia General Assembly didn’t ratify the 19th Amendment until 1952!
I hope you enjoy the play. Here is the link to the YouTube video:https://youtu.be/gdlJT7Ej3xU