During a news conference on Sept. 10, Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate announced the creation of a Carrie Chapman Catt Award to incentivize high schools to register eligible students to vote as well as the addition of a Suffrage 101 curriculum to the SOS website.
“2020 marks the 100th anniversary of women gaining the right to vote. I can think of no better way to mark that important milestone than by encouraging young people to get involved, while recognizing the sacrifices and accomplishments of suffragists like Carrie Chapman Catt,” Pate said.
A new state law allows 17-year-olds to register to vote in Iowa. They can also participate in primary elections if they will be 18 in time for the general election. Collaborating with Project High Hopes, the YMCA Youth and Government organization and the Iowa Council for the Social Studies, the SOS office will help high schools across the state organize and conduct voter registration drives.
Every school in Iowa that registers at least 90% of its eligible students to vote will receive the Catt award, named after the Iowan who was a national leader in the women’s suffrage movement.
“I am very pleased with the implementation of the Carrie Chapman Catt Award to encourage 17- and 18-year-olds to vote,” said Dianne Bystrom, director emerita of the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics at Iowa State University. “Also, with the record numbers of women running for and getting elected to public office, and it is important for students to learn about the women’s suffrage movement and their participation in politics.”
Bystrom, who participated in the news conference, worked with the Secretary of State’s Office to add a women’s suffrage section to its Elections 101 curriculum offered to schools and civic groups. The free online curriculum, available at Elections101.iowa.gov, gives teachers customizable lesson plans that cover a wide variety of elections-related topics, including the history of the Iowa Caucus and how to conduct one. Bystrom wrote two lesson plans for the online curriculum, Women’s Right to Vote and Women’s Political Participation.
The lesson plan on Women’s Right to Vote focuses on the contributions of leading suffragists, including those with Iowa ties, as well as the various strategies and goals of the leading suffrage organizations. The lesson plan on Women’s Political Participation focuses on the history and influence of women as voters, political candidates and elected public officials in the United States and in Iowa. The direct link to the Suffrage 101 curriculum is https://www.elections101.org/suffrage-101/.
“Through the updated Elections 101 curriculum and the new women’s suffrage and women in politics addition, teachers have a flexible set of plans and resources that can be tailored to their students’ needs. In addition, every school should make it a goal to receive the Carrie Chapman Catt Award and put our students on a path to a life of civic engagement,” said Jack Vanderflught, advocacy director for the Iowa Council for the Social Studies.
Tuesday, Sept. 24, is National Voter Registration Day, and Pate said he hopes schools use the annual event to organize voter registration efforts in their schools. Schools interested in being considered for the Carrie Chapman Catt Award and receiving information and resources about how to conduct a voter registration should visit https://sos.iowa.gov/youth/carriechapmancattaward.html.