Celebrating Women's Suffrage

Louise Van Poll, Huron Museums Director
Posted 6/10/22

Historic marker placed at Pyle House

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Celebrating Women's Suffrage


To celebrate the centennial of the passing of the 19th Amendment, the National Collaborative for Women’s History Sites and the William G. Pomeroy Foundation have partnered to launch a new historic marker program commemorating the history of women’s suffrage in the United States.

Huron is one of only three sites in South Dakota chosen for one of these markers to commemorate Mamie Shields Pyle’s considerable contribution to the Suffrage movement, both in South Dakota and nationally.

The Trail Markers include a QR code which will take visitors to a database with digital map and a program of historic markers for about 250 women’s suffrage sites across the country.

Huron’s marker is at the Pyle House Museum on Idaho Avenue and Fourth Street. A big thank you to the City of Huron Parks & Recreation crew for installing the sign.

The Pyle house is open for tours by appointment and is also available to rent for group events such as meetings or showers. Call the museum at 605-352-2528 for more information.

Mary “Mamie” Pyle was elected president of the South Dakota Universal Franchise League in 1910. As president, she made several changes to the League’s strategy — most importantly separating the suffrage movement from prohibition.

Additionally, instead of having district organizers, Pyle implemented county leaders. The county leaders were responsible for finding township workers.

Under this method, every household in South Dakota was contacted by someone locally who was committed to suffrage.

During that period, the most persuasive argument against woman suffrage was that some women were opposed to having the right to vote. To counter this argument, the League, under Pyle’s direction, organized county-by-county petition drives.

In 1918, 95% of the women in South Dakota to whom a suffrage petition was presented signed it, indicating they were willing to assume the responsibility of being voters.

On Nov. 6, 1918, the Citizenship Amendment passed with 64% of the vote cast, and the disenfranchisement of half of the citizens of South Dakota ended.

Women today are still able to benefit from the efforts of Pyle and the early suffragists.

Two years later, again with Pyle’s assistance, South Dakota became the 21st state to ratify the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution, making women full citizens with the right to vote and hold government office.

In June 1919, when the SDUFL re-organized itself into the South Dakota League of Women Voters at a meeting in Huron, Pyle was retained as its president.

Pyle gained national recognition for her efforts and in 1920, she was placed on the Honor Roll of the National Woman Suffrage Association for her distinguished service to the cause of Woman Suffrage in America.

She was one of the first women to become a presidential elector in 1921. She was inducted into the South Dakota Hall of Fame in 2020.

“South Dakota will perhaps never realize how much she owes to Mrs. John L. Pyle, President of the Universal Franchise League, who gave herself absolutely to the winning of political freedom for South Dakota’s women,” said Maria S. McMahon in “How to Win a State,” The Woman Citizen 3 (Nov. 16, 1918).

“Shouldering the responsibility that others refused, she was at her desk from early in the morning often until 11 o’clock and later at night. Neither home cares nor illness nor anything else stood in the way of her complete service. The best there was in her she gave to the cause she loves, and she has the gratitude of those for whom and with whom she worked.”

Louise Van Poll is the Executive Director of the Dakotaland Museum, the Pyle House Museum, and the Centennial Stone Church Center.