Making Democracy Work

Women suffrage centennial

Women's Suffrage Centennial August 2020

Suffrage Centennial

In the months between Congress passing the 19th amendment (June 4, 1919) and the 36th state ratifying the amendment, suffragists worked tirelessly to make women's suffrage the law of the land.

Over the course of 2019-2020, this webpage will highlight some historic events in that process. See also the new website created by a loose coalition (including League) of organizations commemorating women's right to vote:

(left) Each time a state ratified the amendment, Alice Paul sewed a new star on the National Women's Party banner.

On August 26, 1920, the 19th amendment became law. (right) Alice Paul unfurls the ratification banner. (Library of Congress photos)

On June 6, 2019, Rep. Debra Altschiller gave this short speech on the floor of the NH House, in honor of the suffragists.

June 15, 2019, LWVNH President Liz Tentarelli presented this 5 minutes quick history of the suffrage movement and formation of the League of Women Voters. Read the talk here. Progressive Summit conference in Manchester NH.

Marilla Ricker Portrait Unveiling Ceremony May 16, 2016

Fund raising ad hoc committee members (L to R in photo at right) Joni Esperian and Liz Tentarelli, with artist Kate Gridley and bill sponsor Rep. Renny Cushing. Missing from the photo (because she was overseeing the details of the outdoor reception) was fund raiser Sara McNeil.

Governor Maggie Hassan spoke just before unveiling the portrait. To right of the portrait is the third member of the self-appointed ad hoc committee to raise the funds for the portrait, Sara McNeil, who is a board member of the League of Women Voters of the Kearsarge/Sunapee Area. (Unable to attend the event was Mary Davies, who served as our treasurer for the project.)

We succeeded! Thanks to the donations of 80 people and organizations, Marilla Ricker's portrait now hangs in the NH State House, officially unveiled on Monday, May 16, 2016. Governor Margaret Hassan spoke, as did the ad hoc committee consisting of League members Liz Tentarelli and Sara McNeil and NH Women's Bar Assn. member Joni Esperian Esq. Rep. Renny Cushing, the bill's prime sponsor, also spoke. The Governor and the artist, Kate Gridley, together unveiled the portrait before a crown of 100+.

Marilla Marks Young Ricker, Esq. portrait by Kate Gridley

Boston Globe May 15, 2016, article about the unveiling: online or click here for the pdf

Marilla Ricker Plaque

Hanging below the portrait is this temporary plaque:


Ricker (1840 - 1920) was born in New Durham, NH. She became known nationally as a suffragist, attorney, author, free-thinker and humanitarian. In Dover in 1870, Ricker became the first NH woman to try to vote. She was denied a ballot, but for the next 50 years she kept trying to vote.

Ricker studied law to fight society's oppression of women and the poor. She passed the District of Columbia bar exam in 1882 "with the highest grade of all who were admitted at the time" (all others were men). Her law practice was mostly pro bono work on behalf of the poor and incarcerated. Returning to NH, Attorney Ricker petitioned the NH Supreme Court to practice law. When she was denied because she was female, she sued and won, but Ricker never joined the NH Bar.

At age 70, Ricker tried to run as a Republican candidate for governor. Her filing papers were refused because, as a woman, she was not registered to vote and thus not allowed to run. Ricker's tireless work for women's rights paved the way for the many NH women who would later hold public office. She died on November 12, 1920, just months after the 19th Amendment granted women the vote.

In her actions, words and work Marilla Ricker was an early advocate of equality and justice for all.

Who is Marilla Ricker?

NH's own suffragist, female lawyer, would-be governor. Find out more about the remarkable Marilla Ricker (1840-1920) by clicking on this pdf file.

For a more thorough description of Ricker's life and accomplishments, the 2002 thesis project by LeeAnn Richey at Stanford University is an excellent compilation from original sources. Click here to read the pdf

The NH Legislature authorized the installation of her portrait in the State House. After nearly a year's work, LWVNH and the NH Women's Bar Assn raised the funds to have it painted and installed (see above).

Thank you to all the donors who made this portrait and recognition possible!

3 more historic NH women

In the 2017 legislature two bills to recognize the first three women legislators in NH were passed. League supports this and we hope the public recognition will happen in time for the 100th anniversary (in 2020) of women getting the right to vote. Click here to read a Concord Monitor article (3/2/17) about the bills and the fascinating women.