On March 6, 1870, Susan B. Anthony spoke in Peoria at Rouse’s Hall, a building lost to time at what is now Main and Jefferson streets. “Woman does not make the conditions of her life,” she told those assembled, described as a “fair congregation” by the newspaper account. “She needs the ballot, that she may make them for herself. She wants a voice in the government. The only way by which she can have a voice, is to have a ballot.”
Two years after her Peoria speech—one of many she made across the country—the acclaimed suffragist would be arrested for attempting to vote for Ulysses S. Grant in the presidential election. In fact, Susan B. Anthony died before ever, as she said in Peoria, having a voice by having a ballot. She passed away in 1906—14 years before the 19th Amendment was passed.
It took nearly a century for women to gain the right to vote, and now we’re celebrating 100 years of having it. A number of events are planned this summer in Peoria, including bringing in award-winning journalist Elaine Weiss, author of The Woman’s Hour: The Great Fight to Win the Vote, which details the dramatic climax of the suffragists’ movement. With 35 states having ratified the 19th Amendment, only one more was needed, and all eyes turned to Tennessee in August 1920.
Weiss will visit Peoria in early June, thanks to the efforts of the League of Women Voters of Greater Peoria, the Peoria Historical Society, the Peoria Riverfront Museum, the Peoria Public Library and others. On June 9, she will give a lecture and host a book signing at the Peoria Riverfront Museum, with tickets available through the museum’s website. Weiss will also participate in a breakfast, open to the public but with limited seating, at the Peoria Public Library North Branch and a tea at the Peoria Historical Society’s Pettengill-Morron House. (In light of the ongoing COVID-19 situation, adjustments to these events will be announced as necessary.)
“Peoria has a long history of strong, involved women who made a difference in both our community and the larger world,” explains Roberta Parks, board member for the League of Women Voters of Greater Peoria. “So it only makes sense that we have a celebration of the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment becoming part of the U.S. Constitution.” The collaboration among the four organizing entities increases the breadth and value of this celebration, she adds, as none could have done such a comprehensive series of events alone.
For a complete lineup of events that will be a part of this celebration, visit peoriariverfrontmuseum.org. PM