Until 90 years ago, at least half the population of the United States was denied the basic right to vote. That changed with the passage of the 19th Amendment on Aug. 26, 1920, giving women the right to vote.
Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) celebrates that milestone anniversary with Women’s City Cabaret Aug. 18 at the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul, an evening of music and spoken word to honor women and their accomplishments in gaining the vote.
“The story of women getting the right to vote is a story of women fighting to be heard,” said producer Andrea Grey of MPR.
Hosting the event will be Jearlyn Steele, local singer and actor. “When asked to be a part of it, I was honored. It’s about a milestone for all of us as women.”
Steele said the evening’s entertainment will be done cabaret style because “it allows us to do anything, any genre of music.”
The evening will include a mix of music, stories and poetry with an eclectic group of women slated to be a part of it all. Participants will include: the Twin Cities Women’s Choir; St. Paul’s poet laureate for life Carol Connolly; Keesha Gaskins, executive director of the Minnesota League of Women Voters; musical director Lori Dokken; singers Debbie Duncan, Connie Evingson, Andra Suchy, and Nona Marie Invie of the group Dark Dark Dark.
A special guest will be Elizabeth Strohfus, of Faribault, one of the first female military pilots. As a member of the Women’s Air Force Service Pilots, WASPS, she was activated in 1942 during World War II.
“It was not until the Carter administration that those women got veteran status,” Grey said. The inequities “still go on to this day,” she said. “It makes no sense.”
But women today should take heart in the accomplishments of women like Strohfus and the suffragists who fought so hard for the vote, Grey said. “Something had to keep those women going for 70-plus years. It was just right and they persevered. We will celebrate women’s suffrage-the struggles and the successes-and take stock of where we are today. As Jearlyn said, Women’s City Cabaret is ‘an award show where we’re not giving out awards,'” Grey said. “We’re demonstrating respect and reverence for women who have paved a fabulous road.”
The evening continues the year-long celebration of the Fitzgerald Theater’s 100th anniversary as a storytelling venue. In fact, the name for the cabaret is drawn from the Women’s City Club of St. Paul that saved the Fitzgerald from being closed in the 1930s.
Although all the participants in Women’s City Cabaret will be women, Steele urges men to attend. “This is not about male bashing at all,” she said, adding that good men who backed the suffragists were a part of the movement.
“This is about patriotism,” Grey said. “There’ll be a lot of patriotism on stage that night, and patriotism is not liberal or conservative. It’s non-partisan.”