Virtual exhibit launched to commemorate history of women’s suffrage in Arkansas

During an event at the state Capitol, Gov. Asa Hutchinson proclaimed Feb. 7 “Women’s Primary Suffrage Centennial Day.”

A virtual exhibit by the University of Arkansas at Little Rock Center for Arkansas History and Culture showcases the history of the women’s suffrage movement in Arkansas.

The exhibit debuted during an event at the state Capitol during which Gov. Asa Hutchinson proclaimed Feb. 7 “Women’s Primary Suffrage Centennial Day.”

The day marked 100 years since Arkansas gave women the right to vote in primary elections — three years before the United States passed the 19th Amendment, which established that right throughout the country. Arkansas was the first southern state to ratify the amendment.

Representatives Charlotte Douglas (R-Alma), Vivian Flowers (D-Pine Bluff), and Deborah Ferguson (D-West Memphis) also gave remarks during the event, which kicked off three years of activities celebrating women’s suffrage.  

Participants wore suffragist-style clothing and gathered on the steps of the Capitol building to recreate a photo taken on Feb. 7, 1917, with then-Gov. Charles Brough to celebrate women’s primary suffrage rights in Arkansas.

The virtual exhibit, “Arkansas Women’s Suffrage Centennial,” features historic documents and photographs as well as essays and critiques on various aspects of women’s suffrage. Additionally, the virtual exhibit includes lesson plans and educational materials for teachers. 

AJ Walker completed a service learning appointment with the Center for Arkansas History and Culture and conducted research on Florence Cotnam, an Arkansas suffragist. Photo by Lonnie Timmons III/UA Little Rock Communications.
AJ Walker completed a service learning appointment with the Center for Arkansas History and Culture and conducted research on Florence Cotnam, an Arkansas suffragist. Photo by Lonnie Timmons III/UA Little Rock Communications.

“Creating this virtual exhibit will give the world access to important resources and scholarly perspective on this critical leap in Arkansas’s long history of civil rights struggles,” said Chad Garret, director of technology and digital initiatives for UA Little Rock Collections and Archives. “The fact that it’s online means that anyone can access valuable information on the struggle Arkansas’s women endured to access their right to vote and be full participants in our democracy.”

The virtual exhibit is supported by a grant from the Arkansas Humanities Council and the Department of Arkansas Heritage.

The project steering committee includes representatives from the Arkansas Secretary of State’s office, the Arkansas State Archives, the Arkansas Women’s History Institute, the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies, the Center for Arkansas History and Culture, the Old State House Museum, and the MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History.

For more information and to view the exhibit, visit the exhibit’s website.

In the upper right photo, attendees celebrate “Women’s Primary Suffrage Centennial Day” Feb. 7 at the state Capitol. Photo by Lonnie Timmons III/UA Little Rock Communications.

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