Shared Memories, Protests, and Signs of Resistance: Voting Rights Activities for Families

September 22, 2020

By Isa Ruelas

Social activist Nancy Hiss chalks a portrait of Jewish suffragist Josephine Hirsch, who was president of the Portland Equal Suffrage League during the 1912 Oregon suffrage campaign. Hiss led this art project on August 26, 2020, in front of Portland’s Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education (OJMCHE) to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment as part of the #ChalktheVoteOR campaign. Photograph courtesy of Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education.

Today, September 22, 2020, is National Voter Registration Day, a day endorsed by the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS), the National Association of State Election Directors (NASED), the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC), and the National Association of Election Officials (The Election Center). Between now and the November 2020 election as part of the #ChalktheVoteOR campaign, the Oregon Historical Society continues to highlight the many changes to our state’s and nation’s voting rights in an effort to better understand this complex history to help envision a better tomorrow. In our first post in this blog series, we explored the five main Constitutional Amendments and laws that form the legal foundation for full voting rights in the United States. Today, we’ve gathered a few activities for individuals, classrooms, and families, to help make tactile connections between history and voting rights movements of today.

Share Your Own History

The job of remembering and documenting history is not only for historians and archivists. Families can explore their own heritage to make a record of their personal voting rights history in Oregon. Closets, basements, and attics are often great places to find old newspaper clippings, photo albums, journals, letters, and other memorabilia that document enfranchisement. Writing down stories passed down through generations can also be a great way to learn about the past. Adults can share these stories with youth in their lives and ask questions that prompt discussion. For example, write down the name of the first woman in your family who voted. Then imagine together what your town, your state, or the nation would look like if they hadn’t voted. How did their right to vote affect the rights of others?

Oregonian, April 20, 1913
This image, published in the “Oregonian” on April 20, 1913, shows Nanine Jones, a former slave, signing a voter registration book in her home surrounded by her family, Dr. Marie Equi, and Dan Gregory. Along with her daughter and granddaughter, Jones acquired full suffrage on that day. The Jones’s had migrated from Louisiana to Oregon four years prior to 1913, after having been freed by the Emancipation Proclamation, however, it took until the end of the Civil War for Jones and her family to fully gain their freedom.

Toy Protests

The struggle for universal suffrage cuts across history through today. Participants in the abolitionist, suffrage, and civil rights movements all used a range of tactics and techniques to amplify their causes. A shared strategy of suffragists and civil rights leaders, for example, was direct action in the form of protests, rallies, marches, parades, and picketing — all to raise public awareness about their campaigns and to make it difficult for politicians to ignore them.

A fun way to learn about voting rights in Oregon and the United States is to recreate a protest or parade at home. Pick a voting rights event, movement, or law that you are familiar with or choose one from history that we’ve highlighted in the timeline below. Explore images from protests, parades, or demonstrations associated with those issues or laws. Discuss with a child in your life the significance of the event, movement, or law, or draw from your own experience if you were there. Turn dolls, action figures, stuffed animals, or other toys into participants. Make mini-protest signs with tape, toothpicks, and paper. The protest signs could collectively spell out the text of the five amendments and laws that form the foundation of voting rights in the country, or you could recreate a demonstration from the past. 

National Woman’s Party (NWP) members from New York, January 26, 1917, Library of Congress, Records of the National Woman's Party, 160033
National Woman’s Party (NWP) members from New York picket the White House in the rain on January 26, 1917. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Records of the National Woman's Party, 160033

Signs of Resistance

Protest signs are the artwork of resistance for social movements. Suffragists and civil rights activists used signs to convey messages during demonstrations, marches, and other acts of civil disobedience. These signs amplified and unified the voices of advocates, conveying to the general public the demands of the movement. We’ve collected in the timeline below signs from the civil rights and woman suffrage movements for inspiration. Design a protest sign to deliver your own important message about voting, or re-create a protest sign that the suffragists and Civil Rights advocates used. Display your sign in a window or front lawn to share with neighbors.

While exploring these images, you can ask questions such as:

  • What connections did advocates make between voting rights and other social issues, such as education or housing?
  • What can you learn about the anti-suffragists' arguments from their signs?
  • What can you tell was important to these activists from their signs?
  • What connections do these signs have to today's protests?

Share your photos on social media with the hashtag #ChalktheVoteOR and tag OHS (@oregonhistory) and OWHC (@oregonwomenshistory) on Facebook or OHS (@oregonhistoricalsociety) and OWHC (@oregonwomenshistory) on Instagram. We’ll share posts on our social channels through the national election on November 3, 2020 — and we will feature some of our favorite community photos in an election day post on Dear Oregon.

The Fight Continues

Information on how to vote for Oregonians displaced by wildfires

  • Ballots will begin being mailed on October 14. If you know an address where you will be able to receive mail then, you can add a temporary mailing address at oregonvotes.gov/myvote.
  • If you want to use a paper form to provide a temporary address Download the Absentee Ballot Request Form (PDF).
  • You can pick up all of your mail (including ballots once they are mailed) at the post office that serves your permanent residence address.
  • Contact your county election office after October 1 for additional options they may have for pickup. Find yours here.

For frequently asked questions, visit oregonvotes.gov/fires.

How do I register to vote in Oregon?

The deadline to register to vote in Oregon during the upcoming November 3, 2020, election is Tuesday, October 13 (21 days before the election). You can register online at the Oregon Secretary of State website. You can also check your Oregon voter registration status on MyVote.

When do I need to update my registration?

You should update your registration if you move, change your name or mailing address, or want to select or change your party affiliation. Registering a name change should be done using the paper registration form so the Secretary of State’s office has a record of your new signature.

When are ballots mailed in Oregon?

If you have registered by the deadline, ballots arrive in the mail approximately two weeks before an election. If you are not yet 18 years of age, you will not receive a ballot until an election occurs on or after your 18th birthday.

What if I have other questions?

Please check your local county election division to answer any question about voting and elections. The Oregon Historical Society is located in Multnomah County, and our county election division can be accessed here.

Isa Ruelas’s Other Posts

The views expressed in user comments do not reflect the views of OHS. The Oregon Historical Society does not participate in political campaigns, nor do we support or oppose candidates.