Royal Oak officials and residents attend a June 10 flag-raising ceremony at the Royal Oak war memorial to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Michigan’s adoption of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote.

Royal Oak officials and residents attend a June 10 flag-raising ceremony at the Royal Oak war memorial to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Michigan’s adoption of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote.

Photo by Erin Sanchez


Royal Oak marks centennial anniversary of women’s right to vote

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published June 17, 2019

 The victory flag, whose purple, white and gold colors represent loyalty, purity and life, respectively, flies in downtown Royal Oak after being raised by Girl Scout Troop 71628 June 10. The state  of Michigan adopted the 19th Amendment 100 years before, on June 10, 1919.

The victory flag, whose purple, white and gold colors represent loyalty, purity and life, respectively, flies in downtown Royal Oak after being raised by Girl Scout Troop 71628 June 10. The state of Michigan adopted the 19th Amendment 100 years before, on June 10, 1919.

Photo by Erin Sanchez

 Claire Hanley, 9, left, and Jessica Schuetzler, 10, of Girl Scout Troop 71628, raise the victory flag during a ceremony at the Royal Oak war memorial June 10.

Claire Hanley, 9, left, and Jessica Schuetzler, 10, of Girl Scout Troop 71628, raise the victory flag during a ceremony at the Royal Oak war memorial June 10.

Photo by Erin Sanchez

ROYAL OAK — For many American women who have enjoyed the right to cast their ballots at the polls, it may seem hard to believe that such a right was only introduced 100 years ago.

Royal Oak officials recently marked the state’s adoption of the 19th Amendment on June 10, 1919, with the raising of the tricolored victory flag. Oakland County will observe a yearlong commemoration celebration.

“Literally to the day 100 years ago, Michigan was among the first in the nation to adopt the 19th Amendment. Michigan, Illinois and Wyoming all did it on the same day,” said Oakland County Board of Commissioners Chairman Dave Woodward, D-Royal Oak. “This is a reminder of the importance on one single day, we had the largest expansion of rights since the founding of this country.”

Royal Oak Mayor Michael Fournier explained the colors of the flag.

In Britain, he said, the suffrage movement adopted white, purple and green to represent the purity of public and private life, the royal blood that flows through the veins of every suffragette, and hope and spring, respectively.

The U.S. kept the colors of white and purple, but replaced green with gold.

“It goes back to 1867 when Kansas was considering passage of a state suffrage referendum,” he said. “Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony adopted the Kansas state flower, the sunflower, as a symbol of the suffrage cause. Soon, gold pins, ribbons and sashes, as well as yellow roses, became symbols of the cause.”

While Michigan was technically the third state to adopt the 19th Amendment, 36 states were needed to ratify the amendment. On Aug. 20, 1920, Tennessee became the 36th and last state needed to make the change to the U.S. Constitution. 

“It didn’t happen overnight. The fight began in 1848 when the women’s rights movement launched on a national level,” Fournier said. “We honor the sacrifice and determination of all suffragettes who won the right to vote for all women — more than half of the citizens of this great country.

“We are eternally grateful and recognize that our country is indeed the most powerful force known to civilization because brothers and sisters can now work together protecting freedom,” he continued. “Remember, our work as a nation is not complete. There is much more to do, but because of the suffragettes, we are further ahead and have their inspiration to guide us.”

Girl Scout Troop 71628 unfolded the flag and raised it, with a little assistance from Royal Oak City Engineer Matthew Callahan, to fly alongside the other flags above the Royal Oak war memorial. The sun came out and illuminated the newest addition.

Royal Oak Commissioner Melanie Macey said the county purchased the flags and distributed them to interested communities.

“This is the 100th anniversary, and it just seemed perfect,” Macey said. “We wanted to have some of the girls involved, and three of the commissioners have young girls, so we recruited them to be a part of the process.”

Macey said her two daughters and son have heard quite a bit about voting from her.

“We’ve talked a lot about the history of voting and about the importance of women voting and, I mean, everyone voting and doing their civic duty, but this was a right that was fought for, and for women especially, it’s something that you don’t let go,” Macey said.

She added that she has felt empowered throughout her lifetime to see more and more women take political office, was proud to cast her vote for a female president, and ran for office after being inspired by all the women before her who paved the way.

“We’re grateful for the support of the county and the idea of the county for coming up with this opportunity for us to reflect on our past, celebrate our past and raise a flag in honor of the suffrage movement,” Fournier said.