PICTURED: Vision 2020 Ventura County members, dressed as suffragettes, at the Rose Parade on Jan. 1, 2020. Photo submitted

by Emily Dodi 

“Use your voice. Use your vote.”

The message has never been more clear. Sometimes it’s hard to imagine that up until 1920, women did not have the power to exercise their right to vote. Vision 2020 Ventura County is making sure we never forget what it took to secure that right and that we never take it for granted. 

Vision 2020 Ventura County, an affiliate of Drexel University’s Vision 2020, is a non-partisan national coalition of organizations and individuals advocating equal rights for women, including California State University Channel Islands, the League of Women Voters of Ventura County, Women’s Economic Ventures and others. On Wednesday, Aug. 26, Vision 2020 Ventura invites community members to “celebrate, participate and learn about” the 100th anniversary of the acknowledgement of women’s right to vote. The “family-friendly and non-partisan virtual event” includes performances by the Passion Players, video presentations and a virtual tour of the Museum of Ventura County’s curated exhibit, The 19th: Votes for Women. Festivities run from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., culminating with a Toast to Tenacity, led by Kathy I. Long, former Ventura County Supervisor and California State Legislature’s “Woman of the Year” of 2015. The event is free, but registration is requested due to a limited number of Zoom spots. (Reservations are allocated to devices not people, so unlimited people can watch on one device.) More information is available on the Facebook page of Vision 2020 Ventura County. 

One of the highlights of the event will be a performance by the Passion Players, a group of local women portraying notable women’s rights activists such as Susan B. Anthony, Sojourner Truth, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucy Stone, Luisa Capetillo and Alice Paul. The play, written by Dawn Dyer, chair of Vision 2020 Ventura County, highlights the contributions and sacrifices made by the women and includes some of their own words. Dressed in white period dress, symbolic of the Suffragette Movement, the Passion Players already have quite a following, having marched in local parades and winning an award at the 2019 Ojai Fourth of July Parade.  

Another event is a conversation between a 15-year-old young adult and WEV founder and CEO Emerita Marcia Bailey that focuses on the importance of women having a seat at the table. “One of the great takeaways from the conversation is that at the current rate of progress, it will take 257 years to close the economic gender gap,” says Lysa Urban of Women’s Economic Ventures, a sponsor of the event.

Dyer emphasizes the need to “educate people, especially young women, that women had no rights.” She adds that it wasn’t so long ago that women couldn’t get a credit card or secure a loan without having a man as a cosigner. “I got my real estate license in 1985,” remembers Dyer, but adds that it wasn’t until 1988 that she could get her own credit card. 

“Even with great strides,” Dyer says, pointing to 2018 as the Year of the Woman and Kamala Harris being named a vice presidential candidate, there is still much to do. “Women hold only 24 percent of the seats in Congress and, as of May 2019, only 33 Fortune 500 companies have female CEOs.” 

Toast to Tenacity is a call to everyone to educate themselves, use their voice and use their vote. “We cannot have a healthy democratic form of governance without an informed and engaged electorate,” Dyer says.

The one in-person activity of the festival asks the community, “What inspires you to vote?” In “Ribbons of Remembrance,” people are invited to write down their answer, or a word or phrase about the impact of voting, on a ribbon or strip of cloth and tie it to the fence facing Mission Park at the Museum of Ventura County. Due to health and safety concerns, people are asked to maintain social distance and bring their own permanent marker and material. The community art project will run through Election Day on Nov. 3. 

Toast to Tenacity takes place on Wednesday, Aug. 26, 4-6 p.m. via Zoom. For more information and to register, visit the Vision 2020 VC Facebook page at www.facebook.com/Vision2020VC/.