To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the League of Women Voters and women winning the right to vote, the Anoka County Historical Society unveiled a new exhibit Jan. 19 at the History Center.

The opening celebrated not only the centennial, but also the partnership between the League of Women Voters-Anoka, Blaine, Coon Rapids and ACHS, which produced the research, artifacts and fabrication of the display. A program led by LWV-ABC members highlighted projects such as “Bee Safe” and “Pollinator Program,” as well as the group’s origins at a 1938 tea.

Once more ahead of the curve, Minnesota LWV became a chapter one year before the National LWV chapter was established, in 2020. This created an environment of perpetual change and progress in which local chapters developed to serve their constituents, even before the vote actually came to pass. In 1911, Anoka resident Dr. Flora Aldrich spoke in favor of women’s suffrage in an article printed in the Minneapolis Tribune.

“If it is true – and it is true – that woman’s moral leverage in the home is an all important one, then it is true that her moral leverage in the government would be an all important one,” wrote Aldrich. “Home and government! Their problems are identical; and to give woman a voice in the government is but to enlarge her consecrated services in the home.”

Six years later, nationally known suffragist Dr. Effie McCullum James spoke at Library Hall, Anoka. The Anoka Union reported that “it was not well attended” but that the address itself was “splendid.” It’s interesting to note how little the local newspapers covered the suffrage movement and ensuing passage of the 19th Amendment.

World War I challenged ideas of American involvement in the global community and opened employment opportunities for women to replace men in the work force during their deployments. At the end of the war, Grace Randall, an organizer in the Minnesota Woman Suffrage Association, visited Anoka to appoint a Ratification Committee to continue advocating for women’s voting rights. The Committee included Mrs. A.E. Giddings as chair, Dr. Flora Aldrich and 14 other local women, as well as one man. In Minnesota, March 20, 1919, marked the right for women to vote in the presidential election, though the state would ratify the national amendment in September. On Oct. 29, the League of Women Voters-Minnesota officially incorporated.

Nellie Erickson Peterson (1866-1948) chaired the League of Women Voters in Anoka during the ratification of the 19th Amendment. She often hosted meetings at her home and submitted an article to the Anoka Union on Sept. 1 on behalf of the League. She doesn’t dwell on the win but moves forward into what comes next: preparing to vote in the November presidential election.

“It is the hope and belief of the League of Women Voters that the women of our county will respond in the finest spirit of patriotism to this new duty,” wrote Peterson. “It is the personal duty – the special responsibility of every Anoka county woman to take her place at the polls for the good of her home, her state, her country. We believe she will respond …”

The historical society’s League of Women Voters exhibit is part of the “We are 100” project, intended to mark the centennial anniversaries of organizations, businesses and people in Anoka County. If you have suggestions, please contact rebecca@anokacountyhistory.org or 763-421-0600.

Rebecca Ebnet-Desens is the executive director of the Anoka County Historical Society.

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