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Secretary of State Mollis Marks "Women's History Month" with Cranston Students

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Secretary of State A. Ralph Mollis shared the original document granting Rhode Island women the right to vote with Cranston East High School students during a visit to the school today to mark “Women’s History Month.”

“It is important to preserve and discuss the history of women’s struggle for equality. This future generation of citizens must know our past in order to have the insight they will need to be tomorrow’s leaders of our state and our country,” Mollis said.

To demonstrate how far Rhode Island has come, Mollis also brought the official Statement of Intent personally signed by Hillary Clinton officially declaring her decision to run in Rhode Island’s 2008 Presidential Primary.

Andrea Iannazzi of the Cranston School Committee joined him at the event. Eleventh-grade history students crowded into the school’s Media Center for a look at the documents and a question-and-answer session.

In 1920, the U.S. Congress passed an amendment giving women the right to vote. After passage by Congress, amendments to the Constitution must be ratified by two-thirds of the states before taking effect. Rhode Island ratified the amendment on Jan. 7, 1920.

But Rhode Island did not wait for its sister states to act. The General Assembly enacted its own version – “An Act Extending the Right to Vote to Women Citizens” – which was signed into law April 22, 1920.

“I think many students were surprised to learn it was not so long ago that women were not allowed to vote. I hope exposure to documents like this will inspire students to learn more and aspire to be better citizens,” said Mollis.

The teenagers had the opportunity to see both documents up close. Some even posed for photos with the historic papers.

Mollis combined the history lesson with a voter registration drive. He plans to register voters at every Rhode Island high school and college leading up to the 2012 elections.

“People who register to vote are more likely to become engaged and effective citizens of Rhode Island. Some of these individuals will become our next generation of leaders. Now is the time to reach out to them,” said Mollis.

His emphasis on young people reflects the reality that nearly 9 out of 10 eligible Rhode Islanders are already registered – more than 700,000 in all.

“The growth in our state will come from reaching out to newly eligible groups like high school and college students,” said Mollis.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, only 59 percent of eligible 18-to-24-year-olds were registered to vote on Election Day 2008. Just 49 percent actually voted in that election.

The Secretary of State’s office prepares the ballots for all federal, state and municipal elections held in Rhode Island. In addition, the office maintains the state’s central voter registration system and distributes handbooks that explain how to run for office, how to register to vote and how to vote.

The Act Extending the Right to Vote to Women Citizens is among thousands of historic items preserved in the Secretary of State’s Archives. Located at 337 Westminster St., in downtown Providence, the State Archives is open to the public weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Secretary of State Mollis is committed to making it easier for Rhode Islanders to vote, helping businesses grow and making government more open and accessible. For more information about the programs and services the Secretary of State offers Rhode Islanders, visit sos.ri.gov.

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MEDIA CONTACT: Chris Barnett at 222-4293 or cbarnett@sos.ri.gov

Related links

Department or agency: Office of the Secretary of State

Online: http://www.sos.ri.gov/

Release date: 03-23-2011

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