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'Remembering our past to preserve our future'

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BIG PLANS:Members of the Miami County Indiana Worth Remembering group meet Wednesday at the public library to discuss their plans surrounding their plans to celebrate the centennial of the success of the woman’s suffrage movement.
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CLIPS:Newspaper clips from the early 20th Century sit on the table during a planning session of the Miami County Indiana Worth Remembering group on Sept. 4. The group plans to celebrate the August centenntial of the ratification of the 19th Amendement and the success of the woman’s suffrage movement with a series of events and activities that will begin in the coming months.
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PLENTY TO DO:Jayne Kesler, left, and Brenda Weaver discuss details of their upcoming woman’s suffrage centennial celebration during a planning session at the Peru Public Library on Sept. 4, 2019.

BY JARED KEEVER - jkeever@perutribune.com

The centennial of the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution is still about a year away, but a group of local women are hard at work planning events to mark the date and remind their neighbors how hard women had to fight to win their right to vote.

“The bottom line of all of this is we are preparing for a parade,” Jayne Kesler said Wednesday morning.

Kesler and three others were seated in a meeting room in the Peru Public Library where they had gathered to make buttons resembling those worn by their forebears who fought for women’s suffrage more than a century ago.

The four – Kesler, Regine Brindle, Stacy Mize and Brenda Weaver – are all members or officers of Miami County Indiana Worth Remembering, a group with the mission statement of: “Remembering our past to preserve our future.”

Though their Wednesday work meeting had primarily been to put together the buttons that will be part of the coming months’ activities, their conversation turned to the plans for those activities.

They have quite a few of them

Planning documents show that they are partnering with area high schools to start a student book club with a book list and planned discussions. There is also an adult group planned as well as “rotating microdisplays” in locations throughout Peru and the county. And they are working to bring professional storyteller Saly Perkins to the area to present her show “Digging in Their Heels: An Energized Eye-Opening Story of Women’s Battle for the Vote.”

For that, they’ve applied for a grant from the local Boomerang Sisterhood. And, so far, for the reading material at the schools for the book clubs, they’ve been pitching in their own cash.

But they want their neighbors to know that, come downtown’s Second Saturday in October, they are going to be reaching out and asking for help.

“And also engage,” Mize said.

Which is sort of the whole point of the “Worth Remembering” group, they all pointed out.

The group started in 2017 as a way to collect, and retell, Miami County’s stories and it grew into an effort to mark and commemorate the graves of WWI veterans buried around the county.

In so doing, Brindle explained, their historical research brought them into closer contact with their home’s history. The idea to tell the story of women’s fight for the vote, which was gaining momentum in the years around the end of World War I, grew from that contact.

“It’s a natural,” Kesler said.

And in telling that story there will likely be plenty of others, like that of Marie Stuart Edwards, a Peru resident and perhaps the state’s most well-known suffragist.

“That’s our focus,” Brindle said. “We believe that by focusing on local history, (we can say,) ‘Hey, we do have a good past, we do have something to be proud of.’”

“And then it ties you to the community,” Mize said.

The group’s efforts surounding the suffrage movement will likely culminate with a parade in the downtown area around the anniversary of the August 1920 ratification of the 19th Amendment. That, they said, will be a sort of re-enactment of the only suffragette march held in Miami County in June 1919.

To learn more about their work or find out ways to get involved, members said residents can get in contact with Miami County Indiana Worth Remembering group through their Facebook page. The group meets most Fridays at 10 a.m on the second floor of the public library.

“Or they can just show up here,” Mize said.