Suffrage For All

WKU diversity and community studies professor Saundra Ardrey speaks at the "Suffrage for All" event at the Kentucky Museum on Sept. 16, 2019. The event shed light on different groups' struggles for universal suffrage.

A lack of voting rights and suppression of the poor and powerless are historically one in the same. This history still holds weight today.

Saundra Ardrey of the WKU political science department and Tyneshia Carter, a 2019 WKU alumna, spoke Monday at the Kentucky Museum regarding why the right to vote is essential.

“To vote is to exist in a political atmosphere,” Ardrey said. “If you’re not voting, then you really don’t exist.”

The presentation was titled titled “Suffrage For All,” serving as part of the museum’s “Journey to the Vote” program series. The series acknowledges the year 2020 marks the 150th anniversary of the 15th Amendment, which prohibited the government from denying citizens the right to vote based on race, color or previous condition of servitude.

Ardrey and Carter gave a brief history of the suffrage movement, including discussion of the hardships African Americans and women endured for voting rights.

The discussion included topics such as the implementation of poll taxes and literacy tests to deter minority voting despite the 15th Amendment as well as the violence exercised against minorities to create fear.

Ardrey also mentioned some of the strategies employed by women to gain the right to vote, including marching, protesting and organizing hunger strikes. The fight for women’s suffrage took 72 years.

It was noted during the presentation younger generations have engaged with the suffrage movement by pushing for the voting age to be lowered from 18 years old to 16 years old. The 26th Amendment, which was ratified in 1971, lowered the voting age from 21 years old to 18 years old.

Fashion merchandising professor Carrie Cox attended the event. She said universal voting rights is an issue she strongly supports.

“I feel strongly about equal rights and representation for everyone,” Cox said. “I thought I needed to come and be here and educate myself.”

The next “Journey to the Vote” presentation is titled “Put a Woman in Charge,” which will feature a panel of current and former local and state female office holders. The presentation is scheduled for Sept. 24 from 5-6 p.m. in the Kentucky Museum.

Features reporter Kelley Holland can be reached at 270-745-6291 and kelley.holland872@topper.wku.edu.