LEESBURG, Fla. – Leesburg High School students celebrated Women’s History Month by attending an important reenactment.
First-year teacher Jacob Finegan learned about a women’s suffrage procession reenactment happening in The Villages, and immediately knew he wanted his students to experience it firsthand.
During the event at Lake Sumter Landing on the Square in the Villages, students heard stories of what life was like for women more than 100 years ago, before the 19th amendment, which gave women the right to vote, was ratified in 1920.
“This is an opportunity for the students to be able to witness history in action. And the suffrage movement is one of those movements that is intersectional,” Finegan said. “Something that I did find interesting though is that, in Florida in particular, the suffrage movement took a lot longer to get started. And that’s because like I said earlier, it’s part of this intersectional movement with abolition, so there was already a strong resistance to women voting in the South, coupled with that it came out of the abolition movement.”
The organization Sisters of Suffrage led the event, sharing about historic women who paved the way for women’s voting rights. Leesburg High School Assistant Principal Dr. Monique Griffin-Gay said she funded this field trip through a special account she can access for enrichment activities and “value-added” trips. And while the 19th amendment went into effect more than 100 years ago, she says it’s important for students to recognize that this is fairly recent history.
“Oftentimes I feel like history is a subject that in today’s age our kids can’t really connect with. Even though it wasn’t that long ago, in their minds it seems like forever ago,” she said. ”I learned a lot about what women have sacrificed over the years and how coming up we have assisted every movement that has ever come through this country, but we get no recognition for it.”
Finegan hopes this illustrates to his students how community effort can lead to positive change.
“There are still so many more problems and issues that need to be addressed today. Problems we don’t even know we have just yet. That’s why it’s important to train minds like the youth to better tackle these issues,” he said. “They are students and people in a new world, a world with mass communication and social media where we are able to reach them about new ideas. And all of these new ideas and new laws and legislation that come out every day will impact them far into the future and they realize this very early on.”
Griffin-Gay hopes to make this an annual trip.
“I want them to get a grasp and understanding that history is made every day and history is what you make it, but to pay attention to what is going on around you because it will impact your future,” she said.