‘Transcription Party’ Marks 100th Anniversary of Women’s Suffrage Movement

February 21, 2020

black and white portraits of suffragists

From left: Suffragists Mary Church Terrell, Anna Julia Cooper, and Anna Dickinson 

Simmons University and Wentworth Institute of Technology will mark the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage with a “Transcription Party: Making Women’s Historical Papers Accessible” event on Tuesday, February 25.

The year 2020 marks the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which prohibited voter discrimination based on sex.

During the transcription event, attendees will have the opportunity to transcribe the letters, notebooks, and other papers of women’s rights activists like Mary Church Terrell, Anna Julia Cooper, and Anna Dickinson, which have never been transcribed before. Instruction and support will be provided.

“During the 100th anniversary of the women’s suffrage, we’re honored to have the opportunity to share the writings of these key individuals who helped women secure the right to vote,” said Laura R. Prieto, Alumni Chair in Public Humanities at Simmons University, who is working on a series of projects about the meaning and legacies of the women’s suffrage movement, before and after ratification of the 19th Amendment. “During this event and with the support of our partners, we’re working to highlight the leadership of these suffragists and make their powerful voices more accessible to all.”

The transcription event is made possible by the Library of Congress’ “By the People” initiative, which has created a crowd-sourced “Suffrage: Women Fight for the Vote” campaign. Through this digital project, volunteers use open-source software to transcribe, review, and tag the personal papers of several suffragists. These papers include letters, notes, speeches, appointment books, legal documents and other writings.

“The 19th Amendment gave more people the right to vote than any other piece of legislation. It was transformative and continues to have a powerful and lasting legacy one hundred years later,” said Allison Lange, Wentworth Institute of Technology assistant professor and a leading expert on the suffrage movement. “This event enables students and members of the community to become an active part of history.”

The Transcription Party will focus on the writings of Terrell and Dickinson. Terrell, the daughter of formerly enslaved people, was an African-American activist who advocated for racial equality and women’s suffrage. In 1896, she co-founded the National Association of Colored Women with other African-American women activists from Boston and Washington D.C. Dickinson, the first woman to give a political address before Congress, was an abolitionist and a strong voice for women’s rights who gave a series of lectures in Boston in 1862.

In addition, attendees will contribute to a parallel project sponsored by Douglass Day and powered by Zooniverse to transcribe African-American suffragist Cooper's archival papers, which are available on the website of the Howard University Libraries and the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center. Cooper, an eloquent writer and advocate for gender and racial equality, was born into slavery and earned a PhD in history from the Sorbonne.

The Transcription Party event takes place from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. in the lobby of the Center for Engineering, Innovation and Sciences (CEIS) Commons at Wentworth Institute of Technology. Attendees who have laptop computers are encouraged to bring them.

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