As Women’s History Month 2019 comes to a close this weekend, I am reminded again of my problem with the math.
One month is only 1/12 of a year. Trying to cram a couple centuries of achievement by American women into a 31-day window that bridges the end of a volatile winter and the beginning of an uncertain spring is asking a lot for the human mind to absorb.
There’s hardly time to share with my granddaughters, Mae and Chloe, as they get ready to vote in their first presidential election in 2020, why a century ago women couldn’t vote, and what they did about it.
To extend the short time that is Women’s History Month, Vision 2020 is about to do some calendar-stretching next year.
Vision 2020 is an initiative of Drexel University College of Medicine’s Institute for Women’s Health and Leadership. Our agenda is the unfinished business of women’s equality, with special emphasis on “shared leadership” among women and men in business, government and beyond.
In 2020, Vision 2020 will present Women 100: A Celebration of American Women, focused on three kinds of history – what’s already happened, what’s happening now, and what will result from decisions yet to be made. Timing of the year-long schedule of events is tied to the centennial of the 1920 passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, granting women the right to vote.
The 31 days will become 366 next year as Women 100 welcomes visitors from all 50 states. When they come to Philadelphia in 2020, they’ll find the results of 10 years of planning by Vision 2020, including:
An original interactive exhibition, aptly named “A Seat at the Table,” created for Vision 2020 to educate and engage people of all ages in active citizenship. It will be in place at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts from March through September.
A high-profile set of three conversations to learn from the past, enrich the present, and shape the future, featuring national leaders.
“Spring Breakthru” – a weekend assembly of undergraduate student leaders from across the nation focused on the future for which their generation will share responsibility.
An East Falls to Seneca Falls Road Rally – a two-day caravan of buses and autos driven by women connecting Philadelphia, where the nation started, and Seneca Falls, New York, where the first Women’s Rights Convention was held in 1848.
A “Toast to Tenacity” at Independence Mall on August 26, National Women’s Equality Day. Thousands here and thousands more across America will raise glasses of grape juice (the drink of choice in Prohibition-era 1920) in a united tribute to women’s progress.
Vision 2020’s three-day National Congress in September, where Women 100 will present at the Kimmel Center a “Celebration of American Women” honoring 100 women who have contributed trailblazing firsts to the country. Also on the agenda will be a national report card on women’s equality.
Throughout the year, Vision 2020 will conduct a non-partisan voter mobilization campaign urging women to say thank you to the suffragists of a century ago by exercising their right to vote in the national election.
So next year, there will be time for my granddaughters Mae and Chloe to enter that 2020 voting booth with full awareness and appreciation of the importance of their right to vote.
History is a long-running show. Women deserve more than an annual guest appearance. Vision 2020’s Women 100 will provide a full year of overdue education and commemoration that we hope inspires others to do the same.
Lynn Yeakel is founder and president of Drexel University’s Vision 2020 and director of the Drexel College of Medicine’s Institute for Women’s Health and Leadership.