Our foremothers taught us an important lesson: Speak up, show up, shape history

Centennial of 19th Amendment is opportunity to reflect on challenges ahead

This article first appeared in the October 8, 2019 edition of the Denver Post.

We live at a time when the responsibility for civic engagement rests heavily on all our shoulders, to hold our democracy and equality in our own hands. As the suffrage women proved, we can’t do it alone.  Women and men showed up, spoke up and got involved. They did it together, and, as a result, they shaped history.

Colorado was the first state to extend women the right to vote by popular referendum. That was in 1893, more than a quarter century before the national women’s suffrage act passed in 1920, creating the 19th Amendment. Our state has always been conducive to creating change.

Coloradoans must continue to show how civic engagement produces amazing results.

I am working on a project commemorating the suffrage movement.  By examining how Colorado and the West led the way in creating the foundation for the larger suffrage movement, I can see how it relates to today.

We have a lot to be proud of – and yet, we have a lot to do. More than ever, it’s time to influence history again and create new opportunities by voting, by getting involved and by caring about what’s happening in our state. Here’s how:

Speak up. Where would we be without the voices from the suffrage movement? They had ideas, and they expressed them with courage and determination. You too have solutions that should be heard loudly and proudly.

Show up, vote, get involved. Women’s fight for the right to vote changed the course of history. But the work is never finished. Understanding the issues of the past gives us nuance to create our future. Through listening and learning, we touch many viewpoints and experiences. What does the past tell us? How do we embrace today in a different manner when we learn about the past. Read, listen, learn and stay educated on history and how those stories affect you today. You shape history every time you vote.

Stay informed, participate.  Through their participation in the 1800s, women from the suffrage movement helped create opportunities. Their relationships knit together to achieve something bigger than themselves, important to our democracy, yet imperfect in its origins.  Civic engagement and community participation lead to shared local knowledge, and that information leads to greater action.

Come together. People collaborate around causes that are important to them. In the 1800s, women would find each other, connect over common interests and beliefs, and grow effective networks. The same holds true today. Participation can become contagious, and collaboration produces great results with impact.

As we prepare to commemorate the 2020 centennial of the 19th Amendment, we have the opportunity to understand what brought this vote to pass – the coalitions, the economic anxieties, and the societal situations  – and the work that lies ahead. We have more to do, more to learn, and more to change.

Let’s go the rest of the way together. Let’s shape history and our future by engaging and, most importantly, by voting.

Cathey M. Finlon is the chair of the Colorado Women’s Vote Centennial Commission, which was appointed by Govs. John Hickenlooper and Jared Polis, as well as the chair of the Board of Directors for History Colorado, the statewide organization named to lead the Colorado Women’s Vote Centennial and its initiative. For more information, visit our Women's Vote Centennial page.