MILTON—Women’s suffrage and voting rights rarely are associated with the Civil War.
Congress didn’t pass the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote until 1919, more than a half-century after Union and Confederate armies dueled.
But the women’s rights movement in the United States had been stirring for decades. The first women’s rights convention was held in Seneca Falls, New York, in 1848.
The fifth annual Civil War Living History Days hosted by the Milton Historical Society seeks to pull the curtain back on the histories of the suffragist movement, voting rights and equality this Saturday and Sunday.
Kari Klebba, the historical society’s executive director, called the event an “immersive experience.” It will feature performances by members of Company K, a reenactment group, and will engross guests in rich Civil War history in Milton, which was a stop on the Underground Railroad.
Activities begin at 7 a.m. Saturday with a pancake breakfast at Community House in North Goodrich Park. Reenactment tours of the Milton House Museum also will be offered throughout the day Saturday.
Guests will be treated as if they were traveling back to 1861. A military drill and canon fire demonstrations are planned intermittently Saturday, and an actor portraying President Abraham Lincoln is expected to appear.
Klebba said the event is designed for all ages. Because of a grant from the Wisconsin Humanities Council, she said, most events are free.
“Our goal is to make sure we spread the word about a very relevant time period even in our current history,” Klebba said. “If you think about a lot of the stuff we’re dealing with today as a modern society—socioeconomic, political—almost every one of those issues has its roots in the Civil War.”
Other events will include a Sojourner Truth “Ain’t I A Woman” introduction, a winery tour of Milton celebrating the anniversaries of the 15th and 19th Amendments and a pub crawl along Merchant Row.
Guests on the winery tour from 3 to 6 p.m. Saturday will be greeted by Milton suffragettes. Civil War veterans from Milton will make appearances at the pub crawl that night.
Klebba said the society picked five veterans from Milton, and Company K actors will perform as those veterans to share their experiences in a “colorful” way.
Klebba said the event will illuminate the struggles for equality during a time of fighting for freedom.
“We’re fighting for people to be free. Are we fighting for equality?” She asked. “... My hope is that this will shed light on how the right to vote was earned.”
The event will conclude Sunday after a sausage and biscuit breakfast in the morning and a mock election in the afternoon. A reenactment of the 1864 election between Lincoln and Democratic nominee George McClellan will commence before the vote is called.
Klebba said only about 10% of the audience will be allowed to vote, which likely will paint a powerful portrait of the time.
Before the event kicks off Saturday, actors portraying Lincoln and Truth will attend a dinner Friday co-hosted by Northleaf Winery in Milton.
During the dinner, the phantom guests will “share their thoughts on the current landscape” and discuss their own life experiences, Klebba said.
“I think it is the perfect mix of fun with education, and it’s a very memorable event we’re very proud of,” she said.