DIANNE BYSTROM: Luncheon Speaker Records Message to OBA Membership


Dianne Bystrom
By 
Scott Stewart
The Daily Record

The coronavirus may have put the kibosh on plans for the Omaha Bar Association’s annual Law Day luncheon, but that doesn’t mean the keynote presentation is nixed.

Dianne Bystrom, retired director of the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics at Iowa State University, recorded a 15-minute presentation exploring the history of women’s suffrage nationally and in Nebraska for OBA members. Watch it at omahabarassociation.com/page/LawDay2020.

“The women’s suffrage campaign in the United States was very long – 72 years in fact,” said Bystrom, who delivers similar remarks on the history of women’s suffrage for Humanities Nebraska. “It was actually 64 years in the state of Nebraska.”

The movement spanned three generations, and early suffragists like Amelia Bloomer (featured on page 4) didn’t live to see the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920. But they inspired later suffragists like Rheta Childe Dorr (also featured on page 4) to keep fighting.

Nebraska had several opportunities to be at the forefront of extending the right to vote to women. Following a speech to the territorial legislature by Bloomer, some legislators adopted a women’s suffrage measure on Jan. 25, 1856, but it failed to pass both chambers.

In 1867, Nebraska was the second state in the nation to allow women to vote in school elections. However, the state restricted it to male citizens and unmarried women in 1875, and in 1881 extended it to include women with school-age children.

In 1871, delegates writing the state’s constitution attempted to adopt a women’s suffrage amendment, but both the amendment and the constitution failed to earn popular support. In 1875, another attempt was made to include it in the state constitution, but ultimately the vote was delined to women, criminals and the mentally ill. Another campaign was run in 1882 to allow Nebraska women to vote, but it also failed.

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