Secretary of State Benson, President Mantella celebrate 100 years of Women’s Voting Rights


GVL / Katherine Vasile

Kellen Voss, Print Associate Editor

Grand Valley State University’s Community Service Learning Center kicked off their series of fall virtual events with a bang, welcoming GVSU President Philomena Mantella and Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson to celebrate 100 years of Women’s Voting Rights.

In the first installment of “Democracy 101: A Series of Critical Conversations,” Mantella and Benson were among a few speakers to discuss the progress made in Women’s Voting Rights over the years, as well as reiterate how important it is to vote in November’s presidential election.

GVSU assistant history professor Nora Salas started off the night with a brief history lesson in woman’s suffrage, emphasizing what the women involved with the movement gave up to simply have a say in American politics.

“The right to have a say in our democracy and have one’s views taken seriously has never been given, it has been struggled for,” Salas said. “Each woman (in the suffrage movement) sacrificed something; their time, their reputation and sometimes jobs and family life. Woman compromised their health, risked their safety and were jailed in the final push.”

After brief remarks from Greater Grand Rapids Women’s History Council Woman Jo Ellyn Clarey and Student Senate’s Vice President of Diversity Affairs Alexandra Murarescu, President Mantella hopped on the call to discuss how those in the suffrage movement helped shape women in leadership positions today.

“I’m a big believer… that you lead through your sphere of influence,” Mantella said. “We certainly need to, at this moment, acknowledge the vote and remain indebted to the brave and insightful women who fought that fight for giving us the right to vote. We have to exercise it, and we have to make sure that we not only vote in our national elections but in our state and local elections. It’s equally important that we understand the issues and register an informed vote.”

Mantella continued to praise the women who helped lead the suffrage movement, highlighting the fact that those women did not waste much of their time in the fight.

“Our hours matter, each and every day,” Mantella said. “We have to be sure that we’re using them for a good purpose… The women who fought to give us the right to vote, they didn’t know how it was going to turn out when they were in the fight. They were working for one hour at a time, one woman at a time, one good day at a time, and they achieved mighty things.”

After Mantella, Benson joined the Zoom call and praised Michigan leaders in government, the majority of which are women.

“Michigan (is) really the only state right now that is lead by women, with a female governor, a female attorney general, myself, and our female justice of the Supreme Court,” Benson said. “We have demonstrated that women’s voices can be representative of all communities and women can lead effectively, even in times of crisis and in the midst of a pandemic.”

Before opening up to attendees for questioning, Benson made sure to make one message clear to young women in Michigan: exercise the rights that so many women fought hard for, and go out and vote in November. Ballots will start being mailed to Michigan residents on Sept. 24.

“You should feel confident that no matter how you choose to vote, your vote will be counted,” Benson said. “Your voice matters, history tells us that. The extraordinary success of people banding together to ensure their voices are heard teaches us that. As we know enter this final stretch of this historically contentious election cycle, don’t let any misinformation or any attempts to dissuade you from voting win the day. We can win the day… by arming ourselves with the ballot.”

To watch a full recording of the first event of the series and find out more information about future events, visit the CLSC section of GVSU’s website.

To find out more information on how to request a mail-in ballot, determine where your polling place is and register to vote, visit