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Chronicling history: Bonanzaville seeks additional suffrage artifacts

Bonanzaville's Kaci Johnson displays cards from the 1910s to be displayed for the upcoming exhibit marking the 100-year anniversary of women's suffrage. David Samson / The Forum

As Bonanzaville prepares for a nearly two-year-long exhibit celebrating the 100th anniversary of women's suffrage, the Cass County Historical Society is hoping residents will loan or donate their items relating to the universal right to vote to the museum.

Curator Katie Johnson said the exhibit, which will be housed at Bonanzaville's museum, will open on May 1 and run through the end of 2020.

Johnson said the exhibit will run nearly two years because although suffrage laws were passed in 1919, it wasn't until Aug. 26, 1920, that the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified by all states.

Following the ratification of the 19th Amendment, more than 8 million women voted in the Nov. 2 general election.

Johnson said Bonanzaville decided to host the exhibit not only to celebrate the 100th anniversary but because voters' rights is still an issue today.

"Really, today we don't have very good voter turnout. Not enough people go out and vote, and it's an important part of being an American citizen," Johnson said. "It helps us connect to the past but also shows us the parallels of the struggles that remain today. [The exhibit] can raise awareness for the past and also for the continuing struggle of people who still have trouble when trying to vote."

Bonanzaville staff has many pamphlets and reading materials from the women's suffrage movement that began in the U.S. before the Civil War, but staff members hopw Cass County residents can loan or donate additional items to the exhibit.

Items can be related to women's suffrage or universal suffrage.

"We're looking for any memorabilia pertaining to early suffrage," Johnson said.

The League of Women Voters of the Red River Valley, a nonpartisan nonprofit that now helps to educate voters and encourage government participation and policy understanding, has been historically active in the region, and artifacts from the League's early days would also be welcome.

The League of Women Voters of the Red River Valley plans to hold its annual meeting at Bonanzaville this year on March 23.

Johnson, a graduate student at North Dakota State University, said artifacts can be loaned to Bonanzaville for just the duration of the exhibit, or they can be donated to the museum and will be used in future exhibits.

Anyone who wishes to loan or donate an item can contact Johnson at 282-2822 or by email at Kaci@bonanzaville.com

Wendy Reuer

Wendy reports for The Forum and West Fargo Pioneer, where she is also assistant editor. A University of Minnesota Morris graduate from North Dakota, Wendy started her career in television news and entertainment in Minnesota and at CBS in Television City, Calif. before working at newspapers in Minnesota and North Dakota. 

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