Ancestry's Free Women's Month Program Celebrates Strong Ladies

It's now free to learn about the women in your family tree who fought for voting rights.

The month of March is all about celebrating strong ladies, so I’ve spent the last few days learning the fascinating history behind the Women’s History Month and reading quotes from powerful women in preparation for International Women’s Day. And it looks like I’m not the only one feeling inspired: This week the well-known genomics company Ancestry launched a new campaign called Make Them Count, which celebrates Women’s History Month by acknowledging generations of women who fought for equal voting rights.

Normally you need an Ancestry account to view your family tree and map your genealogy, but the company has made it free for anyone to use this service. The only information you have to enter is the name of a grandparent and a place they may have lived. I entered my maternal grandfather’s name and the state he lived in and found my first female relative who was eligible to vote: The 19th Amendment was passed when my great-great-grandmother was 41, so she was able to vote for the first time in the 1920 election. Beyond her name and basic information, I was also able to see other records about her: She could read and write, and based on her location, Ancestry suggested she likely had to brave a snowstorm to get to the polls that day.

old sepia photo of women protesting
Early suffragists protest for women's right to vote in the early 1900s. Courtesy of Ancestry

Most of us in the Better Homes & Gardens office were able to find information on at least one family member, although if there isn’t a lot of known information about your family tree you may not be able to find someone. If you can’t find a specific family member, you can also use their online resources to learn more about the history of women’s suffrage, specifically the black suffrage movement. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which guaranteed women’s right to vote, but women of color weren’t granted full voting rights until 1965 with the passage of the Voting Rights Act.

This disparity is part of the reason Ancestry chose to highlight the suffragist movements this month. Dr. Lisa Tetrault, an associate professor at Carnegie Mellon University, specializes in the gender, race, and the history of American democracy and is one of the experts involved in putting the campaign together. She explained that this program is all about learning where we come from and using that knowledge to influence our future decisions. “By searching into our personal history, especially into our ancestors, we are able to bridge the gap between our past, present, and how we want to shape our future,” she says.

Lisa Tetrault

While we are responsible for our own personal journeys and the values we instill onto the next generation, our ancestors' decisions have impacted certain areas of our lives.

— Lisa Tetrault

She explained that learning who our ancestors were and what they believed in can actually shape our society moving forward. “Our ancestors have played a large role in shaping the foundation of who we are,” she says. “While we are responsible for our own personal journeys and the values we instill onto the next generation, our ancestors' decisions have impacted certain areas of our lives.”

This Women’s History Month, honor the activism of these strong women by reading about suffragist history, registering to vote if you aren’t currently, and learning more about the women in your family tree.

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