SPECIAL REPORT : Wisconsin women 100 years after 19th amendment was ratified

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(WAOW) — It’s been nearly 100 years since Wisconsin became the first state to ratify the 19th amendment, which allowed women to vote.

It was an ongoing effort for women fighting for simple rights.

Decades ago, married women couldn’t own property, claim any money they earned and were not allowed to vote.

According to the Marathon County Historical Society, in 1866, male voters in Marathon County approved a referendum to allow women to vote only in school and municipal elections.

“I think it’s important to celebrate the 19th amendment, having a voice and a seat at the table. I think that’s super important,” said Katie Rosenberg, who serves on the Marathon County Board of Supervisors.

Rosenberg’s great grandmother was part of the suffrage movement.

“She was kind of a trailblazer, at least according to my mom,” she said. “She would wear pants while gardening or wear a bike; it’s kind of things we don’t think about right now because it’s what we do.”

Rosenberg’s said she can’t help but think of what life would be like without the suffrage movement.

“I would be fighting for it. I know for a fact the women I am with would be fighting for it,” Rosenberg said. “We would continue that fight, which is now why we are continuing the fight to be on these boards and these tables.”

Chai Moua serves on the Portage County Board; her story is a little different.

“Most of my life I lived as a stateless person, being someone who doesn’t have a home county to be a citizen of,” Moua said.

Moua went from stateless to serving in office.

“I decided to run when I saw things I wanted to see not happen,” Moua said.

However, Moua’s journey to county board wasn’t the easiest.

She tells News 9 a lot of people doubted her not only because of her gender, but because of her race.

“It was hard I don’t think a lot of people thought I could do it; some believed but some in Portage County haven’t seen a Hmong woman sit on board,” Moua said. “They really doubted I would have any support.”

Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin believes the roles of women will only get stronger.

“We strengthen those institutions because of bringing our experiences to our job, so I see a real difference that women are making in the United States senate every day.”

The 100th year anniversary of ratifying the 19th amendment in Wisconsin is on June 10th.

Governor Tony Evers signed an executive order to create a committee to celebrate the anniversary.




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