In 1920, the United States ratified the Nineteenth Amendment guaranteeing women the right to vote. The struggle for female suffrage was long and hard, and fraught with racism. Yet, ultimately this milestone victory redefined the nature of American democracy and ushered in a new age of women’s civic activism. With the vote, women gained greater power to effect change in American society. Over the ensuing century, women expanded their fight for equality beyond the ballot box to other arenas, including educational institutions, professional opportunities, and social justice issues. And the battle against persistent sexism and gender-based disparities continues today.
The Virginia Museum of History & Culture’s exhibition, Agents of Change: Female Activism in Virginia from Women’s Suffrage to Today, explored the legacy of women’s suffrage in Virginia from 1920 to 2020 through a diverse selection of female changemakers—women who worked to change their communities, the Commonwealth, and the country. Their stories underscore the importance of civic engagement in a democracy, as well as the power of individuals to create a better world. The articles in this set offer a brief summary of some of the women and themes that were featured in the exhibition.
These articles were featured in the Virginia Magazine of History & Biography, Vol. 128, No.2 in connection with the Agents of Change exhibition.