Fort McCoy News Sept. 11, 2015

Women's suffrage movement teaches 5 lessons

Public Affairs Staff

Misty Lown admits that her right to vote is something she has taken for granted.

"I've never thought about it," Lown said. "Why? Because it's granted to me, it's gifted to me. … But I (can) do that because somebody else did their job."

Lown was the guest speaker at Fort McCoy's Aug. 28 observance of Women's Equality Day. Women's Equality Day commemorates the 1920 ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which granted women the right to vote, and women's continued efforts to gain equal rights.

Misty Lown, founder and president of the licensed dance studio program "More
Than Just Great Dancing," gives a presentation Aug. 28 during the Fort McCoy
observance of Women's Equality Day.
Photo by Scott T. Sturkol

Lown is the founder of Misty's Dance Unlimited in Onalaska, Wis., and the "More Than Just Great Dancing" studio affiliation program.

While Lown has spoken at many events in the past, she said she's usually asked to talk about her dance school or affiliation program. The invitation to speak about Women's Equality Day and the 2015 theme, "Celebrating Women's Right to Vote," surprised her.

"What does this have to do with me, as the owner of a dance school?" Lown asked. "What does this have to do with you, whether you're working on the civilian or on the garrison side?"

Lown said she gleaned five lessons from her research on the women's suffrage movement.

"My first and great takeaway from the lessons of these ladies who fought alongside tens of thousands of men and women is that when you do your job, what you've been called to do, somebody else will not have to worry about it," Lown said.

The second lesson she learned is it is important to pave the way for other people. She named four women — Lucy Stone, Sojourner Truth, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Susan B. Anthony — who are widely recognized as influential in the fight for women's voting rights. None of them lived to see the 19th Amendment pass.

Although people may not reach the finish line, it's important to work toward it so that future generations may build on their work.

"We are enjoying things we did not fight for, but we still have to fight for things for our children," Lown said. "We are living in a time when the job is still not done."

Her third lesson is the builders of great things are almost always anonymous. "Where are the names of the tens of thousands of men and women who fought for 72 years (for women to vote)?" Lown asked. "There wouldn't be a 19th Amendment in any of the history books if not for their work."

She said that although most individuals are not recognized by history books, their work is just as important to accomplishing the goals as the work of those who are.

"The fourth lesson that I learned is that the work is never done — but keep going anyway," Lown said. "The finish line moves."
As a mother of five, Lown used raising children as an example. "You think you got to the finish line when your kids graduated high school, and you realize that it just moved," she said. "And then you get them through college, and the finish line moves."

The importance of doing work that matters is the fifth lesson she took away from her research, she said.

"There is no greater job satisfaction than to know that the time, energy, and effort you have invested matters for something greater than yourself," Lown said. "That is the story of … Lucy Stone, Susan B. Anthony, Sojourner Truth, (and) Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who … put in the work knowing that it matters and knowing that they'll never see the finish line."

She said remembering these five lessons is a way to honor the work of these women and the thousands of others who fought, and still fight, for women's equality. "We each have a mission and a responsibility," Lown said. Her mission is, through dance, to teach girls dignity, self-respect, and "to push back against the sliding bar and lowering bar that's presented to them in society," she said.

She started "More Than Just Great Dancing" to encourage other dance schools to foster a similar culture. Dance studios participating in her affiliation program teach about 40,000 students in the United States, Canada, Aruba, Australia, and the United Arab Emirates.

"I couldn't teach 40,000 kids a week myself," she said. "But I'm following the example of the brave women at the beginning of our presentation who knew that they could not carry the mission to the finish line (by themselves), but they needed the help of tens of thousands of men and women to make that cultural change."

Maureen Richardson of the Fort McCoy Resource Management Office was among the 65 people who attended the event. She said she thought Lown put on a great presentation and was very inspiring. "Clearly she's energetic; clearly she's passionate about what she does," Richardson said.

Plans are being made for Fort McCoy's next observance, Hispanic Heritage Month, which is Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. Details will be announced soon. For more information about Fort McCoy observances, call 608-630-6078.