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Women’s Vote Centennial brings artifacts to city to commemorate 19th Amendment

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The Women’s Vote Centennial, Colorado’s commemoration of the 19th Amendment, is at the Trinidad History Museum now until Friday Dec. 13. The statewide traveling artifacts tour hopes to educate and rally residents and organizations around the anniversary of the largest voting-rights expansion in U.S. history.

According to the Women’s Vote Centennial, the exhibit features an original ballot box from the 1884 Colorado elections and a reproduction ballot from the 1893 Colorado elections. Trinidad is the third stop for tour, which is also hoping to inspire interested organizations to collaborate together around the anniversary and create civic engagement.

Women’s Vote Centennial is an initiative of History Colorado and they hope they have “created inclusive, historic opportunities for Coloradans to participate and join grassroots efforts to learn about the complex history of the women’s suffrage — and, how Colorado transformed history for the entire country.”

Said Jillian Allison, director of the Center for Colorado Women’s History; “We are thrilled to launch our tour across Colorado’s landscape, reaching the iconic places that helped create history – and the people who continue to shape history. More than ever, it’s important to understand Colorado’s early role in the national movement for the women’s vote, while stimulating new participation, action and conversation.”

Allison and her team pulled this factoid in relation to Las Animas County’s role in women suffrage: “Las Animas County did not share the same level of enthusiasm surrounding the suffrage movement as the rest of the state. In 1893, 26 percent of residents voted in support of women’s right to vote. However, it was an improvement from the 1877 election, where only 11 percent of residents were in favor.”

Yet, Allison said, Las Animas County’s role did not start, or end, there and the story is a little more complex.

“It’s interesting,” said Allison. “When the state of Colorado was holding the constitutional convention (in 1876) and were debating voting rights, one of the people that wrote in favor of women’s right to vote was from Las Animas County and was representing Las Animas County and Huerfano County. He had this grand case in favor of suffrage, even though it didn’t come to pass at that time.”

That man was Agipeta Vigil and he is described as the only delegate of Mexican descent. He and Henry Bromwell, the only two in opposition, wrote in their minority report: “The minority of said committee respectfully submit that the report made by the majority of said committee contains one provision which can not be reconciled with justice and equal rights among the citizens of the State.

“Said provision is in the form of a limitation upon the right of suffrage, conferring that right to less than one-half of the citizens of the State over the age of 21 years.

“The undersigned know of no reason why any portion of our citizens should be disfranchised…

“… It may be stated as a rule applicable to every species of republic that the depriving of any class of the right of suffrage invites contempt of that class, and in fact produces it…

“… All the arguments — if sneering and cracking jokes are to be called arguments — brought against the exercise of universal suffrage are the very same used by the favored class 100 years ago against the right of just such men as now compose this Convention.”

Later, in 1893, Colorado was the first state to outlaw, via state referendum, denying citizens the right to vote based on their sex. This took place more than 25 years before the national women’s suffrage act was signed into law on Aug. 26, 1920.

“When residents see the ballot box, ballot, photos and other historic materials in the pop-up exhibit, they will gain deeper appreciation for Colorado’s role in bringing women into full participation of the national political system. The simple ballot box and ballot sheet used in 1893 are emblematic of the accountability and transparency that we value today. Voting technology has come a long way in the last century and a half, but the power of the vote and the importance of each person’s voice in our communities remains unaltered,” said Allison.

Allison encouraged people and organizations in the Trinidad area to reach out to her, the Trinidad History Museum, or History Colorado if they would like to get involved, or learn more.

Said Allison, “There are interesting stories and factors in every community and we are interested in learning more. If someone wants to do more, don’t be shy about reaching out.”  

For more information contact the Trinidad History Museum at 719-846-7217.

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