Hilary Fleck. Courtesy photo


A research fellowship honoring one of Indiana’s most significant suffrage activists is helping a local historian tell the story of Monroe County women who fought for the right to vote. 

Hilary Fleck, Monroe County History Center (MCHC) collections manager, was one of four women to receive the May Wright Sewall Fellowship. Fleck will use her $2,500 award to review the suffrage movement in Monroe County and the surrounding area. The year 2020 celebrates the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, which guarantees women’s constitutional right to vote. 

Presented by Indiana Humanities, the fellowship seeks to commemorate the suffrage movement with an emphasis on working-class women and women of color. 

“This is another part of our initiative to diversify the stories we tell so it’s not just rich, white men,” says Susan Dyar, MCHC director. “It’s women, African Americans, and everybody else who was here.”

The exhibit, “Votes for Women: Monroe County Women and the Suffrage Movement,” will focus on how Monroe County women contributed to suffrage at local, state, and national levels.

“I’d also like to highlight women who have run for office after 1920,” Fleck says. “Not just focusing on those who have won their positions, but the women who just ran.”

“Votes for Women” will be displayed as a wall installation using photographs, newspaper clippings, timelines, and text at the MCHC, 202 E. 6th St.

“It’s going to be like an open scrapbook,” Fleck says. “And it’s going to be in an area where we host a lot of our school tours and camps, so I wanted to make sure that the concept of the suffrage movement was still understandable to little children.” 

Fleck hopes to further celebrate the anniversary by hosting a variety of panels, programs, tours, and marches throughout the year.

The exhibit, which is free and open to the public, begins January 13 and will remain on display throughout 2020. An opening reception will be held January 24 to commemorate the anniversary of Indiana’s ratification of the 19th Amendment. 

For more information, visit monroehistory.org.