Suffragette celebrators unveil sunflowers

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette Artist Mary Biekkola Wright poses with sunflowers at Montezuma Park Tuesday. Recognizing the Importance Women’s Suffrage Everywhere, UP (RISE UP) hopes to have community members making and displaying sunflowers through the Keweenaw next year for the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage.

ynonymous with the suffragist movement since the 1860s, when Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton campaigned for women’s right to vote in Kansas.

The iconography is returning in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage next year, which will be accompanied by numerous local events.

Members of the Keweenaw chapter of Recognizing the Importance Women’s Suffrage Everywhere, UP (RISE UP) displayed a sample of sunflower art at Montezuma Park in Hancock Tuesday.

“It’s an easy symbol to do,” said Cynthia Cote, who is co-chairing RISE UP’s art committee with artist Mary Biekkola Wright. “We’re working to get every community making sunflowers. We want to just line the streets with them.”

They are working with people in Copper Harbor and Calumet, and looking for people in L’Anse and Baraga as well, Cote said. The hope is for the sunflowers not to be “cookie-cutter,” but take many forms, whether plywood or cardboard, Cote said.

“The main idea is to get communities working together to make the sunflowers,” Cote said. “We want to involve kids and families.”

Sunflowers are being fabricated now, and will be put out next spring, Wright said.

“Once you see them, they make you feel so good and cheerful, no matter what’s going on in Washington,” she said. “They make you smile.”

RISE UP will hold planning meetings from 1 to 2:45 p.m. on the third Saturday of every month at Portage Lake District Library in Houghton.

Activities will begin next March with an exhibit on Michigan suffragettes displayed at the Carnegie Museum. Movies, presentations and athletic events are among the items being planned.

A centennial parade will also be held on Aug. 15, 2020. Early plans are for the parade to go from Houghton to Hancock, concluding at the Quincy Green.

“Women have made such phenomenal contributions to the United States, and women had to fight for every single contribution,” said Linda Belote, head of the parade committee. “The right to get the right to vote was many, many people, many years of hard work, lobbying legislators, their husband, the president.”

The fight continues, Belote said, citing states’ failure to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment and the continued pay gap between men and women.