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Friday, September 18, 2020

URI series chronicles ‘Long Rhode to the Vote’

 Series begins Sept. 23 with Prof. Ken Florey on the ‘Merchandising of the Movement’

Dawn Bergantino

👈Merchandising the Movement: WWI era poster for women’s suffrage, part of Professor Kenneth Florey’s collection (Photo courtesy of Ken Florey)

The year 2020 marks the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote. This came just 50 years after the ratification of the 15th Amendment, which granted the right to vote to African American men. 

As part of the commemoration of both of these milestones, the University of Rhode Island will hold a year-long series of virtual lectures, panels and discussions over the course of the 2020-2021 academic year.

URI’s “Long Rhode to the Vote: Suffrage Centennial Lecture Series” is sponsored by the URI Center for the Humanities, the program in Gender and Women’s Studies, URI’s College of Arts and Sciences, the Honors Program, the Women’s Leadership Council and the Suffrage Centennial Committee. All events are free and open to the public. Registration is required.

The series begins Sept. 23 at 4 p.m. with a virtual presentation and lecture by Kenneth Florey, professor emeritus at Southern Connecticut State University and an expert on women’s suffrage memorabilia. 

His discussion of “Suffrage Memorabilia and the Merchandising of the Movement” will explain how memorabilia such as buttons, ribbons and pennants were used by those in the movement as a sort of “visual rhetoric” that helped to start conversations and also convey that the movement was vast and growing.

“In the early period of the movement, even those women who believed in various aspects of women’s rights were sometimes reluctant to assert those ideas outside of the home,” says Florey. “Memorabilia, in part, helps to illustrate the progress and movement of women from private to public discourse.”

Florey has authored two books and a number of articles on memorabilia and their significance to the suffrage movement and has lectured on the topic in the United States and abroad. Florey holds one of the country’s largest private collections of suffrage artifacts, consisting of postcards, buttons, ribbons, sashes, sheet music, and other objects. He has also served as an auction appraiser and cataloger of suffrage material.

While, according to Florey, the golden age of suffrage memorabilia was relatively short – lasting from 1907 to 1916 – he notes that its impact is still felt and used in much the same way today.

“Today political campaigns and cause movements still rely on memorabilia,” he said. “While things may change eventually as a result of the digital age, for now the use of memorabilia is still going strong.”

To register, visit:

Upcoming lectures as part of URI’s “Long Rhode to the Vote: Suffrage Centennial Lecture Series” for fall are:

Thursday, Oct. 15, 7 p.m.

“How Black Women Broke Barriers, Won the Vote, and Insisted on Equality for All”

Martha S. Jones, Society of Black Alumni Presidential Professor and professor of history at Johns Hopkins University, will discuss race and suffrage.

Thursday, Oct. 29, 7 p.m.

“Suffrage and Sashes: American Pageantry and the Feminist Movement”

Hilary Levey Friedman, sociologist, author and president of the Rhode Island chapter of the National Organization for Women, will delve into the history of the suffrage sash and how it influenced the Miss America Pageant.

Thursday, Nov. 12, 7 p.m.

“Transnational Suffrage Activism in Post-revolutionary Mexico”

Kathleen McIntyre, URI assistant professor of gender and women’s studies and associate director of the URI Honors Program, will discuss her research on the suffrage movement in post-revolutionary Mexico.

Wednesday, Nov. 18, 7 p.m.

“Current Trends in Voting Rights”

Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea, who helped spearhead the “Shall Not Be Denied” statewide initiative celebrating the centennial of the 19th Amendment, will discuss the election of 2020 as well as recent trends in voting rights.

Additionally, “Rightfully Hers” a pop-up display created by The National Archives, in partnership with the Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission (WSCC) will be on display on the first floor of Robert L. Carothers Library and Learning Commons through October 2020.

For more information on URI’s “Long Rhode to the Vote: Suffrage Centennial Lecture Series,” or to register for upcoming lectures, visit: