Haddonfield Memorial High School celebrates trailblazing women

Struggle for recognition, Nineteenth Amendment centenary marked in library display.

On Sept. 16 in the Haddonfield Memorial High School library, members of its 50/50 Club for Gender Equality posed next to a pop-up display from the National Archives, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment which gave women the right to vote. Pictured from left are: Meredith Simms, Alexa King, Ellie Weko and Mary Herdelin.

As 2019 is celebrated as the “Year of the Woman,” and the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment arrives in 2020, Haddonfield Memorial High School has decided to meld the two together in interesting fashion.

Just after the start of the school year, HMHS opted to place a conspicuous reminder of the battle for women’s suffrage smack in the middle of its library: a double-sided pop-up display and living monument direct from the National Archives, entitled “Rightfully Hers.”

Members of Jeff Boogaard’s AP Government class, as well as those from the school’s 50/50 Club for Gender Equality, gathered in the library on Sept. 16 to express their thoughts on the struggle of a century ago, and the one that exists in the present.

“In terms of representation, until it’s equal not only in government but also on TV and in other forms of media, it’s important to have other forms of representation so young girls can see role models who look like themselves,” said AP Gov student Maddy Stadler. “And although we’ve made a lot of progress in the last 100 years, we have a long way to go.”

Junior and 50/50 Club member Ellie Weko recognized that there has been a lot of change and a lot of positive development in the last 100 years regarding women having a larger say in their homes, jobs and in government. However, she feels there is still much ground to make up since women are still largely not in control of crafting legislation regarding health and bodily autonomy – particularly regarding abortion.

Sophia Presenza echoed Weko’s sentiment regarding the number of male officials who have power to legislate women’s issues, noting, “We’re getting (the short end on) abortion laws, and they’re being made by male figures even though it’s not their bodies. I feel like we’re not going to have true equality until we have that say for ourselves.”

“I think a lot of what they said about representation still holds true, about having more female representatives; we saw that in the last congressional elections. There’s a group of congresswomen who have become increasingly vocal, and I think in this current election coming up, we have Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren bringing their messages and really inspiring a lot of young female students today,” Boogaard added.

Harris and Warren may join 2016 nominee Hillary Clinton in history as women who have been nominated by the Democratic Party as presidential candidates. All three follow in the footsteps of 2008 Republican vice-presidential selection Sarah Palin, and to the late Geraldine Ferraro – the first woman to be nominated to a presidential ticket for either major party – who served as the Democrats’ choice for vice president in 1984.

“I think there’s been a lot of growth and a lot of change, but there is still a long, long way left to go. I think until women are fully represented within government and are able to be empowered to make laws about women, we’re not going to be able to see true equality,” noted Alexa King, vice president of the 50/50 Club.

The 19th Amendment was officially added to the Constitution on Aug. 18, 1920, when Tennessee became the 36th state in the Union to support the right of women to vote. Its centenary will occur just 77 days before Americans take to the polls to elect the president, among other candidates for federal, state and local offices.