History

Ashland University professor Deleasa Randall-Griffiths visited the Marvin Memorial Library on March 12. Dressed in historic attire with a setting of 1940, Randall-Griffiths performed as Carrie Chapman Catt.

History came alive in Shelby where locals welcomed a special guest to honor the women's suffrage movement and the 100th anniversary of women's right to vote in the USA.

Ashland University professor Deleasa Randall-Griffiths visited the Marvin Memorial Library on March 12 when she presented what organizers described as a "living history performance" of suffragist leader Carrie Chapman Catt.

Catt founded the League of Women Voters and served as the National American Woman Suffrage Association president in 1920. That is the year the 19th amendment became part of the U.S. Constitution, allowing for women to vote in every state.

Dressed in historic attire with a setting of 1940, Randall-Griffiths performed as Chapman Catt. During the performance, she detailed the history behind the women's suffrage movement, its key players, the decades' journey, along with its challenges, accomplishments and legacy.

The key message, Randall-Griffiths said in an interview after the presentation, was to show those in Shelby "all of the work that went into it 100 years ago to get women to vote."

"It wasn't just a quick thing," Randall-Griffiths said. "It took a lot of effort and lot of people's work across the nation to get it accomplished."

"That is really my hope this whole year is to try and share the stories," she said. "Every time I talk to a group, people are like, 'I didn't know that. I hadn't heard that. I didn't learn that.' ''

"It's like a little piece of history I can share," Randall-Griffiths added.

She noted that Ohio played a key role back in 1920, a year when both major-party presidential nominees were from the Buckeye State: Republican Warren Harding and Democrat James Cox.

"It was a big Ohio thing," Randall-Griffiths said. "Ohio was a huge part of what happened right there in 1920. Everybody was paying attention to Ohio because of these presidential candidates."

With 100 years of perspective, work remains, "including the women and the women's stories being told," she said, adding that this includes Native American women and other minorities.

"I think just getting voter participation, in general, is still a struggle for us," Randall-Griffiths said. "Here we are, 100 years now, you would think everybody would say, 'Absolutely, I'm going to vote. It's my right.' People can be so complacent."

Randall-Griffiths also is asked about a woman president.

"That is something Catt would probably have assumed would have happened by now. She might be surprised. Then again, she might not. It's not that a woman hasn't run for president. Belva Ann Lockwood ran for president (1884 and 1888), Victoria Woodhull (1872) ran for president. Women ran for president before women could even vote, but they weren't successful campaigns, of course."

"So I'm sure that's something that those suffrage women would have hoped for," Randall-Griffiths said. "But we haven't seen it yet."

She also said: "I think the best candidate should be president. But would I love it if it were a woman? Absolutely. But I don't want it to be a woman just for a woman's sake. I want it to be the best candidate."

Randall-Griffiths' appearance in Shelby as the guest of the Richland County-Shelby Chapter of The Ohio Genealogical Society.

"Shelby itself had a huge suffrage movement," said Christina Drain, president of the chapter. "There were 50 to 60 women who were involved in the suffrage movement (between) 1910 to 1920. It was just huge for such a small town."

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