Tuscarawas News Detail
Kent State President Speaks at Women’s Equality Day EventPosted Sep. 1, 2014
The League of Women Voters (LWV) of Kent celebrated Women’s Equality Day on Aug. 26 with the establishment of the Helen Dix Scholarship for nontraditional students in the memory of a community leader who treasured education and her membership in the league. The first scholarship will be awarded for the 2015-2016 academic year to a nontraditional student attending Kent State University or Hiram College.
The gathering to kickoff fundraising included members of the LWV, Dix family members and friends from Dix’s long life, all of whom also came to hear Kent State University President Beverly Warren. More than a 100 community members were present at The Overlook in Twin Lakes for the event, which was co-sponsored by the Kent State Women’s Center. Nancy Brown, president of the League of Women Voters of Ohio, traveled from Columbus to attend.
Aug. 26 of each year is designated in the United States as Women's Equality Day. Instituted by U.S. Rep. Bella Abzug and first established in 1971, the date commemorates the passage of the 19th Amendment, the Woman Suffrage Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which gave U.S. women full voting rights in 1920.
“The Kent league wanted to commemorate Women’s Equality Day with a special event to focus on the importance of voting and voter education, which were important to Helen Dix,” says Iris Meltzer, president of the Kent League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan political organization promoting voter registration and education that is open to men and women.
Dix died in October 2013 at the age of 96. She helped to found the Kent chapter of the League of Women Voters in 1953 and remained a member of the organization. Through her family’s ownership of the Record-Courier, she made it possible for the Kent LWV to compile and have printed the “Voter’s Guide” for the Portage County community. The tradition started in 1956 and continues today.
Dix’s son David, publisher of the Record-Courier, thanked the LWV for establishing the scholarship to help students who may be struggling financially. A mentor helped the young Helen Westcott find a job in Kent so she could enroll in college at Kent State in the early 1930s during the depths of the Great Depression. She became a journalist and eventually joined the staff of the Record-Courier where she met Robert Dix. They married in 1938.
“With this scholarship, I think maybe we can help another young Helen Dix out there,” her son says.
Warren, the new president of Kent State, started her talk by thanking the league for shining a light on Women’s Equality Day, stating that voting is a true privilege.
“One of the reasons we are here to celebrate is the idea of our progress as a country. Women before 1920 might not have imagined a woman seated on the Supreme Court; that we have women serving in Congress and many of the highest offices in the land; and a very competitive woman fighting for the chance to serve this country as president. It comes from this desire to work together to create a better world,” Warren says.
But the work never ends. She has chosen to stay in higher education because she sees the importance of making sure future generations fight for what is right and to also share with them responsibility, including the obligations that come with the right to vote.
Warren is optimistic about the future from the quality of student she sees at Kent State. She is energized by the commitment the community has for the university and its students because she feels it takes many people from different sectors of a community to achieve an educated and responsible electorate.
Warren acknowledges the work done by her predecessors but especially by Carol A. Cartwright, Ph.D., the first female university president in Ohio when she was at Kent State in the 1990s. Warren likened her to the pioneers and suffragettes who blazed a trail in new territory.
“When we think of the courage of those pioneers and we stand on their shoulders, it is important that we learn from them. We are only going forward because of those who have paved the way before us,” Warren says.
The staff of the Women’s Center, a program of Kent State’s Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, headed by Alfreda Brown, Ed.D., vice president and league board member, provided a presentation on the background of Women’s Equality Day. It was interrupted by the arrival of Ida B. Wells-Barnett, a historical African-American female journalist and suffragette born in 1862 who helped to found the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Played by actor Cara White, Wells-Barnett challenged the audience think about how there are barriers beyond gender that stand in the way of voting rights.
The Kent LWV is the local chapter of the League of Women Voters of the United States. Established after passage of the 19th Amendment to educate voters, the LWV is a nonpartisan political organization, encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues and influences public policy through education and advocacy.
For more information about the League of Women Voters of Kent, call 330-678-5664.
For more information on donating to the Helen Dix Scholarship, call 330-678-9217.