Lights on France Avenue, Aug. 26

The city of Edina lit up purple, white and gold lights along France Avenue on Aug. 26 to honor Women’s Equality Day, as part of a nationwide campaign called “Forward Into Light” by the Washington, D.C.-based Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission. (Sun Current staff by Caitlin Anderson)

Women in the United States achieved the right to vote 100 years ago this month.

On the centennial of the 19th Amendment being added to the U.S. Constitution, the city of Edina officially celebrated Women’s Equality Day Aug. 26. To honor this day, the city lit up purple, white and gold lights along France Avenue as part of the Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission’s “Forward Into Light” campaign, a nationwide initiative where hundreds of organizations participated in turning on these lights.

A week earlier, the City Council adopted a proclamation stating that Aug. 26 would be called Women’s Equality Day, mirroring the national recognition of the day. City documents say Edina residents should acknowledge this day in order to bring awareness to efforts to better achieve gender equality in the U.S.

The proclamation is “really an important milestone … for our city,” Mayor Jim Hovland said at the meeting. “(I’m) really pleased to be able to celebrate this 100th year anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment.”

The “Forward Into Light” campaign is named from the historic suffrage slogan, “Forward through the Darkness, Forward into Light,” according to the Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission website.

For Minnesota specifically, the state ratified the women’s voting rights amendment a year earlier than did the country, becoming the 15th state to do so. Last year, the city also adopted a proclamation for Minnesota’s addition of this amendment.

For women voters, Aug. 26 of 1920 was an important day, said Colleen Feige, president of Edina’s chapter for the League of Women Voters.

“It was the result of 75 years of struggle, and I mean significant struggle by women, some men ... to make that happen,” she said. “It’s nice to be recognized within our city as well for the hundredth anniversary.”

The League of Women Voters is a national, nonpartisan organization that works to encourage and empower the public to vote in elections while also helping to grow and protect voting rights. Currently, the Edina chapter has about 125 members of multiple genders.

And starting this week, the Edina LWV chapter will be hosting forums for candidates in Edina-associated political races for the upcoming 2020 local election.

Feige said it’s important to note that while voting rights were opened up to women in 1920, women of color were often still excluded from the vote – not fully granted the opportunity until the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965, which prohibited racial discrimination in voting.

And additional rights for women across the board still need to happen, Feige said. This includes the Equal Rights Amendment, which if ratified in the U.S. Constitution, would guarantee equal rights for all citizens regardless of gender.

“Women still have a way to go,” she said. “Our work isn’t done.”

– Follow Caitlin Anderson on Twitter @EdinaSunCurrent

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