On Tuesday August 18, 2020, at 11 AM, the LWV Klamath Falls participated in one final commemoration ceremony to honor the 100th anniversary of the LWV and the passage of the 19th amendment, gaining women the right to vote. Two trees recently planted were joined by a new bench with a plaque on it. The tree and bench are located on the Klamath Wingwatchers trail, located near the Visitor Center at 205 Riverside Drive on the west side of Highway 97.
Herald and News Story
It took the prompting of a mother to her son to help ratify the 19th Amendment on Aug. 18, 1920, clearing the way for voting rights for many women whose efforts to attain it had spanned decades.
That day, State Rep. Harry T. Burn’s vote garnered the two-thirds majority needed to make the 19th Amendment official. Many, mostly white women could officially vote eight days later.
To celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the ratification, League of Women Voters of Klamath County charted their own path down the Ken Hay Nature Trail on Tuesday, where they celebrated 100 years of voting rights, commemorated the efforts that led to the ratification, and shared about the struggles that remain in the pursuit of voting.
The event is the third piece of what has been a year-long effort to mark 100 years of women earning the right to vote. Other pieces included a dramatic play and the book “Timeless Recipes: The Great Fight to win the Vote for Klamath County.”
Klamath Falls Mayor Carol Westfall, dressed in Suffrage purple and gold, marveled at the actions of Burns and his fellow legislators, and all the women who helped pave the way to the vote.
“It really changed the course of this nation,” she said.
Westfall was one of about 20 attendees, including founding members of the League of Women Voters of Klamath County, to join the walk along the portion of the Klamath Wingwatcher’s Lake Ewauna Nature Trail. Many dressed in hats, and/or carried signage that reflected the time period of Suffrage Movement and that still resonates today: “Votes for Women,” “Equality for Women,” and “Voting is a right.”
Leslie Lowe, longtime treasurer and member of League Women Voters of Klamath County, emphasized the long history of securing a woman’s right to vote dates back further than the centennial anniversary.
“It’s really important to remember that that the fight to get the right to vote and actually be able to cast that vote has gone on since before the Declaration of Independence,” Lowe said. “It’s not just history, it’s alive today.”
Women in Klamath County had been able to vote since Nov. 5, 1912, when Klamath County men voted in favor 919-688.
Joan Balin Staunton, one of two surviving founding League of Women Voters founding members present, also helped start the Klamath County chapter in 1976 after moving to Klamath Falls from Federal Way, Washington.
Anita Ward, also a founding member, attended the event as well.
Staunton said both saw the chapter actively help institute Kindergarten in Klamath County before it became a statewide requirement.n She recalled efforts to get people registered to vote at grocery stores in town.
Staunton encourages women to take leadership roles and participate in the community.
“It’s so important for women to be active,” Staunton said.
Heather Tramp, executive director of Klamath County Chamber of Commerce, said that from an early age, her great-grandmother instilled in her the importance of voting.
Tramp said her great-grandmother grew up during a time when women could not vote and the impact of that has not been lost on her.
“I’m thankful for the women and the men that stepped up and got us that right,” Tramp said. “That led me to a lifelong passion for being involved at our local, our state level, and our federal level.
Gutierrez, who also spoke at an event celebrating the centennial on Feb. 9, emphasized that “women earned the right to vote.”
Gutierrez called the period that lead up to the ratification one of the “darkest” periods of history, in part due to hunger strikes and oppression toward women who took part in the Suffrage Movement.
“Women went to jail for this cause,” Gutierrez said.
“Timeless Recipes: The Great Fight to win the Vote for Klamath County,” the 100th Anniversary cookbook and history lesson elaborates, describing the experiences of women who fought for voting rights:
“They picketed for the right to vote, were put in jail, and some declared insane. Jail guards grabbed, dragged, beat, choked, slammed, pinched, twisted, and kicked the women, with no consequences to the guards.”
Lowe emphasized than in 1920 and beyond, despite having the technical right to vote, women of color still had many barriers between them and the polls.
“Although they had the right to vote, they didn’t have the opportunity to vote because of poll taxes and a whole variety of ways that they were kept from the polls,” said Leslie Lowe, treasurer of the League of Women Voters of Klamath County, “Until the Civil Rights Act of 1965, and here we are today, 55 years later, and we’re still dealing with the same oppression.”
Emily Strauss, president of the League of Women Voters of Klamath County, spoke of additional barriers to voters on behalf of Diane Shockey, who served the past year as chair of a committee to organize the centennial celebrations. Shockey is dealing with COVID-19 and is expected to recover, according to Strauss.
Wingwatchers Trail Info
Klamath Wingwatchers has developed a 2.5 mile trail along the western shore of Lake Ewauna and on both sides of Highway 97 as it enters into downtown Klamath Falls. Along this trail, Wingwatchers planted over 1500 trees, shrubs, and other plants that provide shelter and food for the many species of wildlife that utilize the area. Picnic tables and benches, information kiosks, and signage enhance the walking experience. Pets are welcome so long as they are leashed and owners use poop bags, which are provided at the start of each trail. Licensed bicycles are permitted so long as the rider is respectful of pedestrians. Brochures at the head of each trail tell about native plants and the trail. Here is our interpretive guide. Here is our native plants brochure.