A group of Girl Scouts at Longfellow Elementary in Portland planted daffodils on school grounds last week to honor the 100th anniversary of women earning the right to vote. From left are Paisley Haskell, Penelope Knowles, Laurel King and Eve Glessner. Contributed

PORTLAND — “Hard won, not done” is the motto of a diverse group of Mainers dedicated to ensuring the 100th anniversary of women earning the right to vote is not forgotten.

Ellen Alderman, a retired lawyer from Yarmouth who writes extensively on Civil Rights, was the catalyst behind the efforts to remind Mainers about the long history of the women’s suffrage movement.

The motto, created and adopted by the Maine Women’s Suffrage Centennial Collaborative, is particularly apt, she said, because the fight for the right to vote was also about so much more.

She said 100 years ago women were also fighting for the right to be recognized as individuals who could divorce, own property, work and get paid a living wage and be free from violence. Unfortunately, Alderman said, even today women are still struggling to reach many of these same goals.

“It’s amazing how much we’re still working to gain,” she said this week.

As part of the 100th-anniversary commemoration, groups of all kinds planted daffodils in time for Election Day, Nov. 5, that will bloom in spring 2020 and every year after for years to come.

On Nov. 5, 1919, the Maine Legislature voted to ratify the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which ultimately gave women the right to vote after a long, hard-fought struggle. While Maine acted to support the amendment in late 1919, it wasn’t officially adopted as part of the U.S. Constitution until August 1920. That’s why Maine’s celebration is going on throughout the fall and into next year.

When she realized several months ago that the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment was coming up, Alderman started contacting what she called “all the usual suspects” to see what plans had been made around honoring this important milestone.

To her surprise, she found that nobody was paying much attention to the anniversary, so she decided to do something about it. Commemorative events now include everything from film screenings to book talks, an exhibit at the Maine State Museum, concerts, and an original play commissioned by Portland Stage.

Author Anne Gass will speak about her book, “Voting Down the Rose,” at 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 3, at the Scarborough Historical Society, 647 U.S. Route 1. The book is an account of her great-grandmother’s role in the Maine women’s suffrage movement.

Maine suffragists chose the daffodil, or jonquil, as the flower is also known, as their symbol, Alderman said. The women would bring bouquets of daffodils to legislators they were lobbying, hand them out at rallies, and ask supporters to wear them in their lapels, she said.

“Planting daffodils is so perfect because it’s a long-lasting, ever-renewing tribute and can represent all women,” Alderman said, adding the new daffodil plots around the state are designed to “honor the struggle of our grandmothers and great-grandmothers and provide inspiration for the daughters of tomorrow.”

Anyone can plant daffodils to commemorate women’s right to vote, she said. The Centennial Collaborative is encouraging participants to share their photos on Facebook and on Instagram and other social media under the hashtag #UnitedWeBloom.

Among the groups most involved with the centennial are the Girl Scouts of Maine, the Maine Historical Society and the League of Women Voters of Maine.

“I’m grateful and proud of the response I received,” Alderman said. “It’s just amazing how all these different groups are using their own talents to commemorate the event in many different ways.”

Girl Scouts of Maine spokeswoman Laura Genese said the right to vote was “a hard-won privilege and it’s important to educate the younger generation” about the suffrage movement. That’s one reason the Girl Scouts are offering a special patch that’s open to any group or individual.

The centennial events are all about “encouraging girls to educate themselves and to speak up and speak out,” Genese said.

Alderman hopes that through remembering the fight for the right to vote, “everyone feels they have a voice and a vote, especially young women.”

Genese said there are currently no memorials to suffragists in Maine.

“With the Daffodil Tribute, we’ll honor women all over the state, year after year,” Genese said. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to beautify Maine, and educate the community on this historic victory in the Women’s Rights Movement and our ongoing work for equality and access to the vote.”

Amy Kuhn, chairwoman of the Falmouth Town Council and a member of the Centennial Collaborative’s steering committee, said she got involved because “this feels like a unique time in the United States and in Maine in terms of the political power of women.”

“Part of this centennial commemoration is to look back and recognize our history, but it’s also a reminder that we must continue to work toward a future when all Maine people can participate equally in political life,” she added.

The Daffodil Tribute provides “an accessible (and inexpensive) way for lots of communities to create memorials of their own,” Kuhn said.

And, she said, it’s important to remember women’s’ suffrage because it “was one of the most successful political movements in history and it nearly doubled the American voting population.”

Both Alderman and Kuhn agreed that it’s important for men and boys to be included in the centennial events, as well.

“All Maine people should care about the importance and vulnerability of universal suffrage … and appreciate the true courage of all people who fight to make Maine – and the country – a more fair and equitable place,” Kuhn said.

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