On September 17, Judson students, faculty, and administrators gathered in Alumnae Auditorium on the Judson College campus to participate in the college’s Constitution Day event.
The event, hosted by the History Department, focused on the centennial of the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, which guaranteed women the right to vote. Guests from the Alabama Department of Archives and History gave a remote presentation on the 19th Amendment and its history in Alabama. Dr. Hayden McDaniel, Education Curator at ADAH, discussed the early legal history of suffrage and the U.S. Constitution from the early- to mid-1800s. Dr. Alex Colvin, Public Programs Curator, spoke on the suffrage movement in Alabama, highlighting the work of four Alabama suffragists and discussing ways their activism directly connected to the state and federal constitutions.
Among the suffragists Colvin highlighted was Emera Frances Griffin, an 1860 Judson graduate and temperance activist who felt strongly that the social change she worked toward would be incomplete without women’s access to the political process. She eventually became president of the Alabama Woman’s Suffrage Association and was allowed to speak in support of suffrage at the Alabama Constitutional Convention of 1901, making her the first woman to address a legislative body in the state. Her powerful speech methodically addressed each reason anti-suffrage leaders had given to deny women the vote. Though “no one could deny that she had made a really good argument,” Colvin added, this effort was unsuccessful in persuading the convention to add a clause in the state Constitution to grant the right to vote to Alabama women.
Other activists Colvin highlighted included Bossie O’Brien Hundley, Legislative Chair of the Alabama Equal Suffrage Association who led the 1915 movement seeking a suffrage amendment to the 1901 Alabama Constitution; Pattie Ruffner Jacobs, President of the Alabama Equal Suffrage Association and board member of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) who pushed state organizers toward securing the vote with a federal amendment; and Adella Hunt Logan, who, though barred from participation in the Alabama Equal Suffrage Association because of her race, worked to involve African-American women in the suffrage movement through her leadership in the Tuskegee Women’s Club and involvement in NAWSA.
Addressing Judson students, Colvin concluded, “We hope that…you saw the importance of what the vote meant to these women, and that you remember [in this election year] to honor these women by exercising your right to vote.”
Judson faculty members Dr. Michael Bergman, Assistant Professor of History, and Col. Mike McKinley, Assistant Professor of Business Administration, gave concluding remarks and led students in a discussion on voting and the importance of the democratic process.
“It was a great privilege to host our colleagues from the Alabama Department of Archives and History to help us celebrate Constitution Day,” says Bergman. “In the centennial year of the 19th amendment, and in a Presidential election year, these conversations were pertinent and insightful and demonstrate that our students have a strong interest in the political process.”
View the full presentation on the Alabama Department of Archives and History’s YouTube channel below.