Programs to highlight women’s suffrage advocate Breckinridge

Kelly Brengelman, Kentucky Chautauqua reenactor with the Kentucky Humanities Council, presents “Votes for Women,” as Madeline McDowell Breckinridge in three performances next week in Hopkinsville. The public performance will be at 10 a.m. March 14 at the Hopkinsville-Christian County Public Library on Bethel St.

A century ago, the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified in Kentucky on Jan. 6, 1920 — giving women the right to vote.

A leader of the women’s suffrage movement and one of Kentucky’s leading progressive reformers, Madeline McDowell Breckinridge lobbied for women’s right to vote in board elections and for state and federal election voting rights.

Students, teachers and the community can learn more about Breckinridge in the Kentucky Chautauqua presentation “Madeline McDowell Breckinridge: Votes for Women!”

Kelly Brengelman will portray Breckinridge in three different performances next week.

“This is the anniversary of women receiving the right to vote through the 19th Amendment,” said Molly Lewis, chairperson of Women’s History Month for the Human Rights Commission. “The theme of Women’s History Month this year is ‘Valiant Women of the Vote.’ We wanted to have a speaker who portrayed someone important in the suffrage movement.”

The public is invited to the Kentucky Chautauqua presentation at 10 a.m. March 14 at the Hopkinsville-Christian County Public Library, 1101 Bethel St. The free program is sponsored by the Friends of the Library, League of Women Voters of Hopkinsville and the Kentucky Humanities Council, in partnership with the Human Rights Commission.

“The performances I’ve seen before from the (Kentucky Chautauqua) program, they very much bring to life that person,” Lewis said. “You feel like that’s the person you’re hearing. They are very good at what they do.”

Lewis said Breckinridge was “very important and very vocal in her support and work toward giving women the right to vote.”

“I think other people in that movement perhaps maybe overshadowed her and she didn’t get the same level of recognition,” Lewis said. “I was very impressed with what she did. She used her skills at speaking and maybe perhaps played on the heritage of some of her family — her great-grandfather was Henry Clay — and decided that she wanted to speak up and speak out and be vocal about this important issue.”

Brengelman will present her first two performances on March 13 in two local schools. The Human Rights Commission is sponsoring an 11 a.m. performance at Hopkinsville High School. The Daughters of the American Revolution is sponsoring the 2 p.m. performance at University Heights Academy.

“We really wanted to get this information out to the students,” Lewis said. “We very much wanted our young women to be aware of the important women in Kentucky’s history and American history.”

Carolyn Self, a member of The League of Women Voters of Hopkinsville, said it is important for people to know more about Breckinridge, the women’s suffrage movement and the 19th Amendment.

“The percentage of people eligible to vote is very low in Kentucky. So, we’re trying to call attention to the idea that this was not an easy (amendment) for women to get passed. We should value it, honor it and vote,” Self said. “It’s so critical that we all vote and keep that privilege, keep that responsibility and that honor to be able to have a say in our country.”

Lewis agreed.

“I think we are at the point now where (the right to vote) is taken for granted,” Lewis said. “Our younger generations have grown up with this privilege and they don’t realize … what it took to get it. It took persistence; it took fortitude for those women to keep pushing to get that right to vote for us.”

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