Women’s Bar Association celebrates 19th Amendment and 100 years of women voting

By Jesse Wright

In June, Illinois is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment. lllinois was one of the early states to ratify the amendment which gave women the right to vote. 

Suffragettes gained statewide support for the 19th Amendment by working with other groups, so the Women’s Bar Association of Illinois (WBAI), in that spirit, is partnering with several other bar associations to commemorate the occasion. 

The bar associations include the Standing Committee on Women and the Law of the Illinois State Bar Association, The Chicago Bar Association’s Alliance for Women and the Black Women Lawyers’ Association of Illinois. In addition, the WBAI will host a luncheon Oct. 16 at The Union League Club to honor the 19th Amendment. The featured speaker will be Rebecca Pallmeyer, first female Chief Judge of the Northern District of Illinois.

Corinne Heggie, newly-installed president of the WBAI, said the suffragette movement is inspirational. 

“It took over 100 years to get it on the books,” she said. “And [that] speaks to the power of the folks who got it on the books.”

In addition to the activists, Heggie praised Illinois lawmakers, including the governor at the time. 

“I have to believe then-Gov. Frank Lowden, who signed the legislation, was a vanguard in his mentality,” she said. “Illinois was one of the first states to sign on and I have to believe it was the leaders in Springfield, and that’s not nothing because I don’t know if it was a popular position.”

According to the National Parks Service, Illinois lawmakers had intended the state to be the first to ratify the amendment, but inadvertently passed the wrong wording on June 10, 1919. By the time they noticed and held another vote on June 17, Illinois became the seventh state to ratify the amendment. 

Heggie said in the spirit of the 19th Amendment, the WBAI will continue to serve as a resource for Illinois and Chicago. The WBAI accepts men and women as members, and by partnering with other bar associations, she hopes to spread the word about the organization. 

“We want to be part of the conversation,” Heggie said. “We’re trying to raise awareness for those who don’t know who we are, and to be a resource.”

To find out more about the group, visit wbaillinois.org.

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