Women’s Suffrage Speaker Shares History and Importance of Voting

Brittney Palik, News Writer

Constitution Day was celebrated by Phi Alpha Theta and their visiting speaker, Dianne Bystrom, highlighting the history of Women’s Suffrage in Nebraska and shared the importance of voting on Sept. 19.  

Phi Alpha Theta is a nationally recognized historical honor society on campus. To be invited to join Phi Alpha Theta, students must have a minimum of 3.1 GPA, be in the highest 35% of their graduating class and have completed 12 credit hours of history courses, according to Joseph Weixelman, advisor of Phi Alpha Theta.  

Bystrom is a director at the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics at Iowa State University. At the university, she has taught classes on women and politics, political campaigns and leadership. She has also contributed to 25 books and has written journal articles about women, politics and voting. Bystrom works as a speaker and commentator on women’s issues and other political issues. 

Bystrom was chosen to be this year’s speaker by Phi Alpha Theta after consulting with Nebraska Humanities to find a speaker for Constitution Day. Phi Alpha Theta has brought several speakers from Nebraska Humanities in the past, including a live history performer as Mark Twain. They’re considering bringing another speaker from the organization later this year. 

Bystrom told the history of the 72 yearlong movement for women’s suffrage and how Nebraska played a role in that story. She focused on the involvement of one woman, Carrie Chapman Catt, and her impact on the women’s suffrage movement.  

“Nebraska was involved in approximately 62 of the 72 years,” Weixelman said. “Nebraska’s whole statehood movement was tied up in the suffrage movement.”  

At the end of her speech, Bystrom shared the fact that women participate more than men in elections. Women vote in larger numbers and larger percentages. 

“She ended with a plea to everyone to vote,” Weixelman said. “Democracy needs support of the people, and support comes through voting.”  

Weixelman said the National Women’s Suffrage Association created during the women’s suffrage movement and became the League of Women Voters with the assistance of Catt.  

The next step was for women to be educated voters. The league provides nonpartisan information about candidates and referendums to voters so they can make an educated decision when voting. Weixelman said the women’s suffrage movement became a movement to keep women involved and to educate themselves to vote. 

“Democracy is under attack,” Weixelman said. “The way to fight back is to vote.”