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Voting for a Change exhibit comes to Neenah

Voting for Change: A $5,000 grant from the Bright Idea Fund and a $2,000 grant from the William and Helen Burger Memorial Fund, both within the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region, are helping to bring the history of the 19th Amendment to life at the Neenah Historical Society for thousands of Neenah students and community members through an interactive exhibit with a local focus and related community-based programming.

By Jane Lang, Executive Director, Neenah Historical Society

It’s hard to believe that only 100 years ago, women were, for the most part, relegated to the sidelines when it came to participation within our political process.

With the passage of the 19th Amendment (the Susan B. Anthony Amendment), the women of our country and our local communities finally had the opportunity to make their voices heard when women’s voting rights were granted.

By telling our community’s interesting stories, the Neenah Historical Society will focus this next year on bringing this exciting time in our shared history to life for the thousands of students and adults who will visit us and participate in our additional programming.

“Voting for a Change – The Impact of the 19th Amendment on our Community” will be a year-long celebration of the one hundredth anniversary of women’s right to vote in the United States.

Through generous grant support provided by the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region’s Bright Idea Fund as well as a grant from the William and Helen Burger Fund, the Neenah Historical Society will produce a new exhibit at the Hiram Smith Octagon House in Neenah and also provide multiple opportunities for the community to learn more about this exciting and pivotal moment in our nation’s history.

Within the “Voting for a Change” exhibit, visitors will discover the “modern” household gadgets that helped Neenah’s turn of the century women, the clothing they wore and how it was changing, and the struggles they underwent to help our state and country finally achieve voting rights for women in 1919-1920.

Jane Lang next to a suffragette dress

Visitors will cast their ballot for president in the 1920 election in an early voting booth, discover the interesting political cartoons of the time, and learn about the local leaders of the past and present who have influenced participation by women in all spheres of our community.

Courtesy: Neenah Historical Society

Additional programming for the community will include a film screening at the Neenah Library on March 21 at 7 p.m. of “Suffragettes in the Silent Cinema,” a Women Make Movies film highlighting the popular culture view of those who were working to achieve voting rights for women in the early 1900s.

On April 18 at the Neenah Library, associate professor of history Steven Sheehan will present an overview of the exhibit and inform the community of some of the exciting stories of local suffragist leaders and their impact on national politics.

Courtesy: Neenah Historical Society

The Historical Society’s popular Annual Cemetery Walk in July at Oak Hill Cemetery will also be themed on the anniversary of women’s suffrage and will feature stories of our former residents and the impact they had on the state and nation at this time.

Plans are also underway to establish another student opportunity this fall in our already popular “History Connects” series of workshops which are provided free of charge to all classrooms in the Fox Valley. A “Voting for a Change” workshop would bring this story to the classrooms of hundreds of local children and help them to realize the value of participation in this important right of citizens.

The “Voting for a Change” exhibit will open to the public on Sundays in May and June beginning May 19 from noon to 4 p.m. and will also be open during regular Neenah Historical Society hours from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday or by appointment.  More information is available on our website.

You can make the Bright Ideas burn even brighter by adding your support.

Check out our current Bright Idea Fund results from 2018 – 2019!
See how our Bright Idea Fund impacted our community last year.


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