Gov. Tony Evers announced the creation of a new committee spearheaded by his wife Kathy Evers to celebrate 100th anniversary of Wisconsin being the first state to ratify the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote.
In a Thursday afternoon press conference, about twenty women from across the state joined the governor at the Capitol to sign a declaration honoring women’s’ suffrage. This committee will promote education about women’s right to vote.
In his address, Gov. Evers also noted Wisconsin’s history as the first state to ratify the 19th Amendment, noting that even then the right to vote did not necessarily include all women. The crowd could hear Representative Shelia Stubbs, the first African American to represent Dane County in the State Assembly, agreeing with the governor, “That’s right, Gov. Evers. That’s right.”
“Being able to be on a platform and being the first African American elected to the state from Dane County is just a moment of being humbled, being grateful, knowing that my voice is going to make a difference and it makes my ancestors proud of me because they paved the way,” she said.
Stubbs said things will be different this time around. She also said the celebration is both honorable and necessary. Stubbs also received her first commemorative declaration signing pen from Gov. Evers on Thursday.
The committee, comprised of justices, senators, state representatives, secretary designees and community leaders, will convene to discuss the plans for the event. First Lady Evers said she is glad her daughters and granddaughters have been raised in the first state to ratify the 19th and looks forward to working with the women on the committee.
“What we’re going to be doing is recognizing the 19th amendment but what it does is that it shows that Wisconsin was the first state to permit the women to vote. It’s going to give us a platform to show that we are still a part of that conversation, that we believe in being the first,” she said.
Wisconsin Women’s Network Vice President T.R. Williams said her invitation is indicative of the inclusivity of both the inclusion of the Wisconsin Women’s Network and this administration. She said she feels pride as a Wisconsinite and American, born and raised in Milwaukee.
Williams said she feels encouraged knowing her state was the first and has been the leader when it was not always popular at the time, though she found this history to be a bit bittersweet for women who look like her. She also said while women of color were not included, this does not take away from Wisconsin being the first.
“I think this shows the commitment this administration has to varying the conversation to include marginalized communities,” Williams said.
She said her connection to her home city and state allows her a special lens that helps her contribute to bettering her home. Williams said she’s also grateful to have the opportunity to be in the same room with women she might not have otherwise met. She thinks the diversity of influential women will affect the planning in a positive way.
“I think it’s really important to note that not everyone had that opportunity, so being a woman and woman of color, it’s important as we’re doing the planning to invite diversity,” Stubbs said.
She said she knows she has a, obligation to create pathways for others since others have done the same for her. Stubbs has not forgotten where she came from. She said she stands on some strong shoulders of some ancestors and all of the women who have served in the capacity politically in the Capitol and across the country.
“I recognized one of our trailblazers I was standing next to, former Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson and I looked at her and I said thank you,” she said.
Chief Justice Abrahamson held Stubbs hand throughout the entire duration of the ceremony. Stubbs said her hand felt like a torch being passed. She said while she is here, she has to make good use of her time.
“I’m honored to have that torch, and it’s bright,” Stubbs said.