History Lecture Series Explores Women's Rights, Suffrage Movement

The events in “A Century of Struggle: Women's Rights Before and After Suffrage” will both celebrate the passing of the 19th Amendment and examine the work yet to be done to advance women's rights.

By: Bill Keller  Wednesday, January 15, 2020 08:18 AM

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Women suffragists picket in front of the White House, 1917. Author unknown.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the ratification and adoption of the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which prohibits states and the federal government from denying the right to vote to citizens of the United States on the basis of sex. And while the amendment itself is considered a landmark moment for the women's suffrage movement that started in the mid-nineteenth century, historians at Muhlenberg and around the nation are using the anniversary to complicate a popular narrative and to draw attention to marginalized individuals and groups that still seek equality.

“A Century of Struggle: Women's Rights Before and After Suffrage” will bring together leading scholars on multicultural and majority women's rights, women's health, women's employment as well as historical and contemporary legislation that has impacted women.

"We are interested in exploring not just the significance of [the passage of the 19th Amendment] but also the lapses and inequities between that moment and now," says Cathy Ouellette, associate professor of history.

Jacki Antonovich, assistant professor of history, agrees. "We asked ourselves, 'How do you commemorate an event that is held as a great moment in history?' while also acknowledging the limitations of that act, which didn’t affect many women of color, for example. Our idea for this speakers’ series is walking a line between commemoration and exploring the real story of history."

The program's concept was initiated by Muhlenberg students in the College's History Club, who sought out professors and mentors for help building a lecture series that explored issues affecting women, framed specifically around the 100th anniversary of suffrage in the United States. Faculty in history and public health and staff in administrative roles—including Kathleen Harring, the College's first woman president, and Lin-Chi Wang, the College's associate dean of students and director of equity and Title IX—will act as speakers for events throughout the series.

Event Schedule

All events will be held at 7 p.m. on the A-Level of Muhlenberg College's Trexler Library and will accompany an archival exhibit, "An Innovation Revisited: 170 Years of Women on Campus" in the College’s Rare Books Room. The display will open January 23 and be accessible through April and will be curated by Susan Falciani Maldonado, special collections & archives librarian.

All events are free and open to the public.


Thursday, January 23
“Images and the Fight for Women's Voting Rights in the United States”
Allison Lange, Assistant Professor of History at Wentworth Institute of Technology
Event Video


Tuesday, February 11
“Raising Our Banners: Women of Color Challenge the Mainstream Suffrage Movement”
Cathleen Cahill, Associate Professor of History at Penn State
Event Video


Wednesday, March 18
“Votes (and Birth Control?) for Women: The Suffrage and Birth Control Movements After 1915”
Lauren MacIvor Thompson, Assistant Professor of History at Georgia State University

“Healing the Body Politic: Women Physicians and the Fight for Suffrage”
Jacqueline Antonovich, Assistant Professor of History at Muhlenberg College


Monday, April 6
Opening remarks by Muhlenberg College Interim President Kathleen Harring 

“Patsy Mink and the Story of Title IX”
Kathleen Bachynski, Assistant Professor of Public Health at Muhlenberg College

“Inspiring Stories and Ongoing Challenges of Title IX”
Lin-Chi Wang, Associate Dean of Students and Director of Equity and Title IX at Muhlenberg College

About Muhlenberg College
Founded in 1848, Muhlenberg is a highly selective, private, four-year residential, liberal arts college offering baccalaureate and graduate programs. With an enrollment of approximately 2,200 students, Muhlenberg College is dedicated to shaping creative, compassionate, collaborative leaders through rigorous academic programs in the arts, humanities, natural sciences and social sciences; selected preprofessional programs, including accounting, business, education and public health; and progressive workforce-focused post-baccalaureate certificates and master’s degrees. Located in Allentown, Pennsylvania, approximately 90 miles west of New York City, Muhlenberg is a member of the Centennial Conference, competing in 22 varsity sports. Muhlenberg is affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.