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Arkansas Governor To Proclaim Women's Primary Suffrage Centennial Day

Butler Center for Arkansas Studies
Central Arkansas Library System

Gov. Asa Hutchinson is scheduled to proclaim February 7 as “Women’s Primary Suffrage Centennial Day” during an event Tuesday at the state Capitol.

One hundred years ago Arkansas lawmakers introduced legislation allowing women to vote in primary elections. Kathleen Pate, president of the non-profit Arkansas Women’s History Institute, says Arkansas was the first non-suffrage state to enact such a law, which, while progressive for its time, was still limited.

“I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that this legislation was not applied equally to all women,” said Pate. “There were still barriers, discrimination based on race, based on socio-economic status, but this was a small step in the right direction. And we have every reason to believe that women’s primary suffrage in Arkansas is what led Arkansas to be an early ratifier of the 19th amendment.” 

The legislative event on February 7, 1917 was commemorated by a photo on the steps of the state Capitol in which then-Gov. Charles Brough was joined by suffragettes wearing white. Arkansans interested in recreating the historic photo are welcome to join Gov. Hutchinson at noon on Tuesday at the Capitol.

Gov. Hutchinson’s proclamation will be accompanied by remarks from representatives Charlotte Douglas (R-Alma), Vivian Flowers (D-Pine Bluff), and Deborah Ferguson (D-West Memphis). This event kicks off a three-year series of events related to women’s suffrage, which will culminate on August 26, 2020 with a celebration of the centennial of the ratification of the 19th amendment.

Arkansas was the first southern state to ratify the amendment which recognized women’s right to vote. 

David Monteith worked as a reporter for KUAR News between 2015 and July 2022.