JANESVILLE

With her 18th birthday and her first opportunity to vote approaching, 17-year-old Julia Gasper of La Crosse feels the importance of celebrating the 100th anniversary of Wisconsin ratifying the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

She and her uncle were among dozens of people—mostly women—of all ages, backgrounds and experiences who marched in downtown Janesville on Monday to mark the occasion.

After learning about women’s suffrage in school and on the internet, Gasper said participating in the event brought those history lessons home for her.

“You can say whatever you want over social media, and everyone says it, but to see the people actually willing to come out and support really means something else, and it’s a lot more comforting,” she said.

Wisconsin was the first state to ratify the amendment on June 10, 1919.

One hundred years later, the local League of Women Voters and the Women’s Fund, which is part of the nonprofit Community Foundation of Southern Wisconsin, organized the march from the town square to the Janesville Performing Arts Center to commemorate the milestone.

A program showcasing women who fought for the vote and women’s participation in politics took place after the march.

“We wanted to celebrate the progress that women have made in the last 100 years,” said Linda Reinhardt, league president.

Local residents were joined by prominent women in politics and others from out of town.

For people such as state Rep. Deb Kolste, D-Janesville, being sure that women and others continue to celebrate and fight for their rights is important.

“We’ve made great strides,” Kolste said. “We’re here today to say that we are celebrating those strides, but I think there’s always work to be done.”

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