March is Women’s History Month! It’s the perfect time to take a moment (or a month) to remember and appreciate the strides taken by our foremothers. Before girl power was even a concept, women of all classes, races and creeds were stepping up, calling out and paving the way for their daughters and their daughters’ daughters to have a chance at a life bursting with opportunity and promise. In honor of those women and their incredible contributions, Indiana Humanities sent out a call for proposals in 2020. This call announced our search for Indiana Main Street Program partners to dig into their histories and find women’s stories, especially those that hadn’t been told, and highlight that history. The result could be an art installation, a heritage trail or something else entirely, but it had to showcase and promote women’s history in their communities. As usual, Hoosier grantees in three towns across the state did not disappoint.
With 2020 being the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment granting (some) women the right to vote in the United States, there was no doubt that suffrage would emerge as a theme. In Peru, they honored Marie Stuart Edwards, a suffragist who founded the League of Women Voters and trained women in Peru to fight for their rights at the ballot box. A life-size statue of the iconic activist was placed outside of the Peru library. The project didn’t end there. Edwards, depicted with her signature bicycle, marks the beginning of the Miami County Women’s Suffrage Trail, which includes displays across the county to acknowledge the contributions of many local women.
In Angola, they recognized well-known Black suffragist and abolitionist, Sojourner Truth. Harkening back to Truth’s visit to the county in the 1860s, organizers proposed a statue of the famed speaker in front of the courthouse where she had spoken more than 150 years before. After the unveiling of Truth’s life-size statue, local actors put on the play With Courage and Conviction, which explores the abolitionist movement in a nearby Indiana town. Local schools also celebrated Truth with lesson plans and book studies on her legacy and indomitable spirit.
If you regret missing out on the unveiling of those two statues, you aren’t too late! Michigan City will be unveiling their statue of Naomi Bowman Talbert Anderson on March 19, 2022. Anderson was a Black suffragist born to free parents there in the 1840s. A renowned speaker, she traveled the country, demanding the right to vote for Black women. Though she died just before the turn of the century, her legacy will live on in the northwestern Indiana town of her birth. So, start planning your trip to Michigan City to join in the celebrations!
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