Gallery Exhibition Will Honor Women's Suffrage Centennial

"Grassroots" by Judy Thompson.

On August 18, 1920, the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified, proclaiming, “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”

For the first time in our nation’s history, women all across the United States had the right to vote.

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of this landmark event, the Center for Western Studies is thrilled to present a gallery exhibition featuring 19 pieces created by female artists demonstrating the diverse and powerful voices of the women of the Northern Plains.



Throughout its half-century history, the Center for Western Studies has sought to lift up the voices, both past and present, of the people of the Northern Plains. One of the truest forms of having one’s voice heard is the ability to affect change through the right to vote.

In the mid-19th century, whispers began to emerge from a population that had been denied a voice for far too long ― women were beginning the long march toward the ballot box. The first campaigns for women’s suffrage in many plains states were tied, in part, to pushes for statehood, and often consisted of a piecemeal assortment of individual voting rights allowing women to vote in matters that had to do with local issues such as school elections.

In 1890, South Dakota attempted to include a women's suffrage provision in its state constitution, but the effort was ultimately defeated. For the women of South Dakota, the march continued. Multiple subsequent amendments failed to gain support, until 1918, when South Dakota became the 17th state in the nation to extend voting rights to women. Two years later, the nation followed, and the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified. On election day, November 8, 1920, men and women of the United States of America were able to have their voices heard as equals.

Even with this momentous occasion, inequalities persisted. Voting rights were not extended in the same way to all Native women (and men) until the 1960s, bolstered finally by the Voting Rights Act of 1965. As we honor the historic achievement of the ratification of the 19th amendment, we do so with the understanding that there is still much more that needs to be done to ensure all voices are heard.

Join us in celebrating 19 amazing Northern Plains female artists who speak through their artwork about the courage and compassion, the grit and generosity, it takes to be a woman living on the Northern Plains in the 21st century. The variety of voices presented in this exhibit is a harmony of authenticity, beauty, and tenacity; it’s a chorus of voices, loud and clear, reverberating with the truth that all men and women are created equal.

Participating Artists:

"19" opens August 18, 2020, and runs through November 30, 2020. The exhibition is free and open to the public. Viewing hours are Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The exhibition is located in the Madsen/Nelson Galleries of the Center's Fantle Building at 2121 South Summit Avenue, Sioux Falls, SD. We ask that you observe all posted public health and safety policies during your visit.

During the “19” gallery exhibit, the Center for Western Studies will also host "Rightfully Hers: American Women and the Vote," a new popup exhibit from the National Archives commemorating the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment. "Rightfully Hers" contains simple messages exploring the history of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, women’s voting rights before and after the 19th, and its impact today. While an enormous milestone, following decades of marches, petitions, and public debate, the 19th Amendment did not grant equal rights for all. The challenges of its passage reverberate to the ongoing fight for gender equity today.