Hard Won. Not Done. Suffrage in the Spotlight on Iowa’s Stages

Playwright, actor, and ISU Professor Emerita Jane Cox will revive her role as Carrie Chapman Catt for a special free performance of The Yellow Rose of Suffrage at Indian Hills Community College on Jan. 26. (Photo by Patrick Gouran)

As part of this year’s centennial commemoration of the 19th Amendment, the League of Women Voters is hard at work coordinating events across the state that highlight suffrage history, the movement’s heroines, and the ongoing fight for the equal rights of women. The broad-reaching campaign that includes educational exhibits, lectures, performances, activism, and more is titled: Hard Won. Not Done: A commemoration of the 100-Year Anniversary of the Ratification of the 19th Amendment from an Iowa Perspective.

Amendment XIX states: 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.

This weekend, the women’s suffrage movement comes to life in stage productions at Riverside Theatre and at Indian Hills Community College, bringing historical figures to the fore whose stories are especially poignant and pertinent in this centennial year of a woman’s right to vote, during the height of Iowa Caucus season, and while the ratification of the 1972 Equal Rights Amendment hangs precariously in the balance.

Republican National Convention, Chicago, 1920. National Photo Co. of Washington, D.C. June 8–12, 1920. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

The Yellow Rose of Suffrage

On Sunday, January 26, 2020, Indian Hills Community College and the Ottumwa League of Women Voters jointly present The Yellow Rose of Suffrage, a tribute to Carrie Chapman Catt, an Iowa woman who fought valiantly to secure the right for women to vote. IHCC Dept. of Fine Arts and Theatre hosts this engaging and informative event at St. John Auditorium at 2 p.m. The play is 45 minutes long, appropriate for all ages, and open to the public for free.

Iowan women’s activist Carrie Chatman Catt

ISU Professor Emeritus Jane Cox wrote and performs The Yellow Rose of Suffrage, which illustrates the life and words of a true Iowa hero. A tireless organizer and campaigner, Carrie Chapman Catt was president of the National American Women Suffrage Association a full century ago, and directed more than two million women in the suffrage movement. Professor Cox’s powerful one-woman show has been performed in over 20 states, as well as at the Kennedy Center and the Smithsonian.

“This play celebrates the accomplishments of women suffragists who fought for years to ensure the future of women in the United States,” says Dr. Jennifer Boyenga, Director of Fine Arts at IHCC. “It tells how one Iowan led the fight for the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.”

The Ottumwa League of Women Voters exists to educate and encourage all eligible voters to register, vote, and participate in government. A good start is learning about and celebrating the women who made the right to vote possible. Opportunities for discussion, and to register to vote, will be available.

St. John Auditorium is located at 525 Grandview Avenue in Ottumwa. For information, please contact Jennifer Boyenga at (641) 683-5144.

The Agitators runs Jan. 24–Feb. 16 at Riverside Theatre.

The Agitators

The Agitators, presented by Riverside Theatre in Iowa City, tells of the enduring, tempestuous friendship of Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass.

Jessica Link plays Susan B. Anthony in The Agitators, opening this Friday, Jan. 24.

Young abolitionists when they met in the 1840s, they were full of hopes, dreams, and common purpose. This play by Mat Smart and directed by Chris Okiishi tells the story of their 45-year friendship—from its beginning in Rochester to the highest halls of government. Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass agitated the nation, they agitated each other, and—in doing so—they helped shape the Constitution and the course of American history.

The Agitators opens Friday, January 24, 2020, and runs Thursday to Sunday through February 16, with special performances that feature post-show talkbacks:

  • Sunday, February 2, 2 p.m. show and talkback with Prof. Miriam Gilbert and playwright Mat Smart
  • Saturday, February 8, 7:30 p.m. show and talkback with Prof. Adrien Wing (Law; UI Center for Human Rights) and Prof. Leslie Schwalm (History; Gender, Women’s & Sexuality Studies), moderated by Prof. Lois Cox
  • Saturday, February 15, 7:30 p.m. show and talkback with Prof. Anna Barker and cast
See Curtis M. Jackson as Frederick Douglass in The Agitators.

For tickets, visit RiversideTheatre.org, visit the Riverside Theatre Box office (213 N. Gilbert Street in Iowa City), or call (319) 338-7672.


To view the full calendar of Hard Won. Not Done. 19th Amendment Centennial Commemoration Project events, click here, and scroll to the bottom of the page.

There’s more work to be done. As of last week, 38 states have now ratified the 1972 Equal Rights Amendment (ERA)—yet it’s still not law.

“Yes, the deadline for ratification has passed. But Congress has the power to change it,” wrote Julie C. Suk in her recent article for the Washington Post.