Lippitt House Museum's 19th Amendment Commemoration
Elizabeth Buffum Chace
Rhode Island Suffrage Leader
1806 - 1899
Mary Lippitt Steedman
This year Lippitt House Museum commemorates the centennial of the 19th Amendment with programs that feature women and draw attention to the long struggle for universal suffrage. Ratified by the states in 1920, the 19th Amendment stated a person’s right to vote can’t be denied because of sex. Throughout 2020, Lippitt House Museum will highlight this important milestone with themed programs, tours, concerts, and a special installation.
The march towards universal adult suffrage was a winding path in the 19th and 20th centuries. The Lippitt family and the servants who lived and labored at 199 Hope Street witnessed and participated in the changes. During Henry Lippitt’s tenure as governor, foreign born veterans were given the vote in Rhode Island. However when he ran for governor in 1875, William Mason the Lippitt family’s waiter, was the only other person, besides 27 year-old son Charles, in the household of 14 who was eligible to vote in the election. The three daughters, the 18 year-old son, the foreign born servants, and even Henry’s wife Mary Ann Balch Lippitt could not participate in the election.
A lesser known part of the “Votes for Women” movement was the anti-suffrage campaign which was supported by several members of the Lippitt family. Middle daughter Mary Lippitt Steedman (1858-1938) was against women’s suffrage and even petitioned the United Sates House of Representatives to not extend the vote to women. Daughter-in-law Margaret Farnum Lippitt (1860-1940) was a leader in Rhode Island’s anti-suffrage campaign. She promoted her position at public forums debating suffragist leaders and testified at a Rhode Island General Assembly committee hearing. As exemplified in the Lippitt family, even though women were not a unified political block on the issue of suffrage they still made their voices heard in the political sphere.
But even with the Constitutional voting protections of the 15th and 19th Amendments as well as the Voting Rights Act of 1965, there are still threats to voter participation today. Part of Lippitt House Museum’s mission is to encourage people to be civically engaged in their communities. The goals of the museum’s 19th Amendment Centennial programing is to raise awareness about the past struggles for voting rights and encourage people to protect and exercise their vote today. The work isn’t done—we’re still at!
Suffrage in Rhode Island: A Lippitt Family Perspective
Lippitt House Museum and Brown University’s John Nicholas Brown Center for Public Humanities and Cultural Heritage are partners on a project that examines suffrage expansion in Rhode Island and connections to the Lippitt family. Travel an interactive timeline developed by students featuring key events in both Rhode Island and United States suffrage history. Explore original memes, cleverly captioned photos, that discuss both historical and contemporary voting equity issues.
The (Unfinished) Legacy of The Women's Suffrage Movement: The Vote, Equity & Reform
For the 5th year in a row, Lippitt House Museum is partnering with the Providence League of Women Voters to host a Community Discussion Series. This year’s line-up commemorates the 19th Amendment asking the question, “In the last 100 years, what progress has been made on the issues promoted by suffragists—not only voting access but also criminal justice reform and equal pay?” The 2020 discussion series addresses issues suffragists fought for and how we can take action and promote change on matters still important 100 years later.
"Radical Women: A Commemoration of the 100th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment"
As part of our virtual women’s suffrage programing, Lippitt House Museum is hosting an online exhibit organized by the Women's Fund of Rhode Island. Explore the stories of Rhode Island suffrage leaders and the contributions of women throughout Rhode Island’s history who fought for gender equity.
Exhibit sponsors: League of Women Voters of Rhode Island & Providence Art Culture Tourism.