The upcoming annual Dr. April Brooks Women of Distinction and Ally Awards are part of a daylong celebration of the centennial of U.S. women’s suffrage at South Dakota State University, in honor of Women’s History Month. The SDSU women, gender and sexuality studies program is hosting the day of programming.
The event will be March 17 in the University Student Union’s Lewis and Clark Room (262). The day opens with Chuck Vollan, an associate professor in the School of American and Global Studies, presenting the kickoff lecture at 9:30 a.m. He will discuss the Woman's Christian Temperance Union and its intersections with women's suffrage efforts in South Dakota.
The WCTU was present in rural areas and Vollan said the organization was one that cannot be placed on the modern right or left political spectrum. Regardless, it had a powerful lobbying influence on the South Dakota Legislature.
“They were an organization that gave women informal indirect political power before suffrage,” Vollan said. “They directly led to changes in South Dakota law and, of course, were a major contributor to suffrage movement. The WCTU got women the right to vote in South Dakota two years before it became national.”
Vollan said the WCTU supported licensing all firearms, favored a much more active role for government, pushed for a resumption of the death penalty and wanted welfare for women and children, in particular a mother’s pension.
“It was a fascinating group that hasn’t gotten its due,” said Vollan, who called Frances Willard, one of its presidents, a political genius. I don’t think she’s recognized as she should be. The WCTU organized women who normally weren’t involved and became an incredibly effective lobbying organization. They really changed the course of the state’s history.”
Other activities March 17 are:
- 11 a.m. - Women in American History students will present a story map about Sojourner Truth, complicating the narrative of women's suffrage in the United States.
- 2 p.m. - Independent study students will present their semester projects, ranging from analyzing women's suffrage in South Dakota, to raising awareness of murdered and missing indigenous women in S.D., to raising awareness of the need for comprehensive sex education in the state.
- 3 p.m. - A panel discussion will be held about the current status of the vote as it intersects with the women's movement of today.