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Weekly Column

Each week a small segment of Vernon County history is published in the county papers.


For the week of 6/20/2021
by Kristen Parrott, curator

Kickapoogian Press of La Farge published a re-print of the 1948 book, The Story of Wisconsin Women, a few years ago, and now it is on sale for $15 at the Vernon County Museum as part of our women’s suffrage commemoration. The book was originally written by Ruth De Young Kohler for the Wisconsin centennial. The story begins in the early 1800’s and ends in the post-WWII period, and covers women’s suffrage efforts here in Wisconsin.

Other related items for sale at the museum include “Votes for Women” sashes, and buttons in suffrage colors of purple, white, and yellow, plus the many beautiful handmade goods in the Stitching for Suffrage silent auction. The Vernon County Historical Society would like to thank all the people who donated their time and talents to provide items for the auction. The auction will be held at the Vernon County Museum through June 26 during regular museum hours.

On June 28 the museum will contact people with the winning bids. All items must be picked up and paid for (or arrangements made with the museum) by 4:00PM on June 30. For any items not claimed by that time, the winning bid will go to the second highest bid and the museum will contact that person. Also on June 30, the museum staff will draw the winners of the four gift certificates from the names of people who donated items. Many thanks to Ewetopia and Quilt Basket for the gift certificates.

All of these sale items are currently on display in the museum’s conference room, where you can also see the women’s suffrage exhibits. We arranged for the Wisconsin Historical Society’s travelling exhibit, “We Stand on Their Shoulders: A History of Wisconsin Women and Voting”, to be here through the end of this week to help commemorate the centennial of Wisconsin’s Equal Rights Law, which passed the legislature on June 21, 1921.

From the travelling exhibit you can learn more about the 1924 Indian Citizenship Act, extending voting rights to all Native people, and the 1965 Voting Rights Act, protecting voting rights for all. You can also learn about Wisconsin women in elected offices – in 1922, suffragist Jessie Jack Hooper of Wisconsin declared that, “Women will have to make as hard a struggle for positions in our governing bodies as we did for suffrage.”

Museum hours for the summer are Monday through Friday, noon to 4PM, and Saturday, 10AM to 2PM, or by appointment. Contact us at museum@vernoncountyhistory.org or 608-637-7396 to make an appointment.


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For the week of 6/13/2021
by Kristen Parrott, curator

The E.R.A., or Equal Rights Amendment, has been in the news lately, having just this year reached the threshold of ratification by the required number of states. Wisconsin has played an important part in the history of equal rights for women.

In 1919, Wisconsin was the first state to ratify the 19th Amendment, granting full voting rights to most U.S. women. In 1920, Wisconsin native Carrie (Lane) Chapman Catt founded the League of Women Voters. And in 1921, a century ago, our state was the first to pass an Equal Rights bill.

Equal rights for both women and men was a plank in the Republican party’s platform in Wisconsin at that time. Wisconsin Republicans, as led by Bob LaFollette, were very progressive. And legislators wanted to do what they could for women, who now had the power to vote them in or out of office.

The purpose of the Wisconsin Equal Rights Law was to “remove discriminations against women, and to give them equal rights before the law.” It specifically stated that "women shall have the same rights and privileges under the law as men in the exercise of suffrage, freedom of contract, choice of residence for voting purposes, jury service, holding office, holding and conveying property, care and custody of children and in all other respects."

The bill passed the state legislature on June 21, 1921. On July 11, Wisconsin Governor John J. Blaine signed it into law, using a black quill pen donated by the National Woman’s Party. Mabel Putman, Wisconsin chair of the National Woman’s Party, was a great supporter of the bill.

Upon the bill’s passage, Mabel received a letter from Alice Paul, head of the National Woman’s Party, saying, "This makes Wisconsin the only spot in the United States where women have, or ever have had since the beginning of our country, full equality with men. We are very grateful to you for what you have done, and are very proud of you."

You can learn more about women’s suffrage and the fight for equality from the new exhibit, “We Stand on Their Shoulders: A History of Wisconsin Women and Voting”. This travelling exhibit from the Wisconsin Historical Society will be on display in the Vernon County Museum’s conference room from June 14 through June 26 during regular museum hours.

Also featured in the first-floor, wheelchair-accessible conference room will be the Smithsonian’s travelling poster exhibit, “Votes for Women: A Portrait of Persistence”; the National Archives’ pop-up exhibit, “Rightfully Hers”; our museum’s own exhibit on women’s suffrage in Vernon County; and the silent auction of items created for our Stitching for Suffrage Challenge.

Silent auction items include handmade dishcloths and kitchen towels, winter scarves and hats, several quilts, and many other items, most sporting some combination of the women’s suffrage colors of purple, yellow, and white. Bidding will end at 2PM on Saturday, June 26.

Museum hours for the summer are Monday through Friday, noon to 4PM, and Saturday, 10AM to 2PM, or by appointment. Contact us at museum@vernoncountyhistory.org or 608-637-7396 to make an appointment.


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The previous two articles:

June 6, 2021

May 30, 2021