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Votes for women

Reader’s Theater celebrates women’s suffrage movement

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October 27th, 2015
Readers Theater on Womens Suffrage
Readers Theater on Womens Suffrage

National Relaxation Day, National Chocolate Milkshake Day, National Cook for Your Pets Day—look hard enough and you’ll find a designation for every day of the year.

For Highland Springs resident Patty Jantho, August 26 is a day to be acknowledged and celebrated.

Women’s Equality Day commemorates the day women were granted the right to vote. The 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution was declared in effect on August 26, 1920.

To mark the 95th anniversary of the 19th amendment, Patty and five friends from Highland Springs performed a Reader’s Theater at the North Dallas community on August 26, 2015.

The production, entitled We Hold These Truths, offered a 35-minute glimpse into the women’s suffrage movement.

“I don’t want that part of history to be lost,” says Patty. “It took 72 years of active campaigning for women to win the right to vote, yet so many people don’t know the story.”

Civic-minded

Patty’s own interest in civic affairs dates back to her early years. She majored in political science at Northwestern University. Before she retired, Patty worked as the associate director of alumni at the University of Maryland. She moved to Plano, Tex., with her husband in 2007 to be closer to their daughter.

“I was a vice president of the League of Women Voters in Baltimore before we moved,” says Patty. “After we moved to Plano, I joined the League of Women Voters of Collin County and served as president for four years.”

Patty moved to Highland Springs, the Erickson Living community in North Dallas, in 2012 after her husband passed away. There, she joined the resident-run Government Affairs Group, a nonpartisan group that works to educate residents about candidates and public policy. Patty also continues to be active with the League of Women Voters.

“Over the years I’ve been a part of several Reader’s Theater productions that focus on different aspects of the women’s suffrage movement—the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention, the National Women’s Rights Convention in Worcester, Mass., in 1850, even biographies of prominent women,” says Patty. “But I didn’t run across any play that covered the entire movement.”

Authoring her own play

Patty was determined to pen her own Reader’s Theater to commemorate the women’s suffrage movement.

“I thought if it was important to me to find a play that provided an overview of the entire movement, I should write it myself,” says Patty. “I did a lot of research and presented the Reader’s Theater as a series of fictionalized first-person narratives from women who were instrumental in gaining the right to vote. I felt having these women speak for themselves was the most effective way of getting the message across.”

Patty asked five friends at Highland Springs—Billie Askew, Margaret Bogle, Jody Jackson, Patty O’Steen, and Katherine Young—to participate in the Reader’s Theater.

Jody Jackson played the parts of suffragist Frances Willard and Texas Secretary of State Jane Yelvington McCallum.

“This Reader’s Theater gave me a good look at the women’s right to vote movement,” says Jody. “I realized that my mother got the right to vote just 11 years before I was born. I hadn’t thought about that before.”

Education is key

For Patty, helping people understand the path women travelled to gain the right to vote is all the reward she needs.

“I had a resident come up to me after the play who said she initially came to support the cast,” says Patty. “She said she learned so much about the women’s suffrage movement. That made it all worthwhile.”

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