LIMA — Mercy Health-St. Rita’s Medical Center glowed purple Wednesday night joining hundreds of institutions and businesses across the country in celebration of the 19th amendment’s ratification 100 years ago.
Organized by the Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission, a brief lighting ceremony held prior to the light gave commission members a chance to praise past accomplishments made by women of the early 20th century while reminding those alive today of their civic duty to vote.
The Sisters of Mercy founded St. Rita’s hospital 102 years ago, opening it early to help those contending with the Spanish Flu. As the president of Mercy Health today, Ronda Lehman follows in those women’s footsteps a century after their work, she said.
“That was a group of women who had the power to make changes and improve the lives of the people around them, and that’s just what they did,” Lehman said.
The City of Lima Chief of Staff Sharetta Smith spoke on the historical progress in the 100 years that occurred since the 19 amendment’s ratification, calling back to congressional achievements such as Title 9, the establishment of neo-natal clinics and the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009.
“The passage of the 19th amendment is portrayed as a triumphant end of movement, hard won after protest and lobbying that brought about change for women, but really, it was just the start,” Smith said.
Smith called for continued change along those lines in the future and stressed the importance of voting to do so. Lima Neighborhood Specialist Autumn Swanson echoed those words.
“When I think about the years of women’s suffrage, I think about the word suffrage and the word suffer within it. It reminds you that change is not easy,” Swanson said. “(Change) takes time. Think about this: 70 years, 100 years. It takes time to enact change. It did not happen overnight. It takes time.”
Other speakers included in the program were Millie Hughes and Deborah Ann Turner, both with the League of Women Voters, and Evelyn Smith with the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Sigma Mu Omega Chapter.
“We celebrate the 19th amendment by showing up to the polls in record numbers and remember that voting is the most powerful tool in our democracy,” Smith said. “And it only works if you use it.”
Other major institutions to adopt purple, white and gold colors to honor the centennial of the 19th amendment’s ratification include The White House, The Library of Congress, multiple locations administered by the National Park Service and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
The three colors had been adopted by the National Woman’s Party in the United States prior to ratification. The organization defined “purple” as the “color of loyalty.”
Those looking to see the hospital in it’s new colors will be able to do so over the next few weeks as the #ForwardIntoLight campaign continues.
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.