Kansas historian to walk in Rose Parade on New Year’s Day

photo by: Contributed photo

Sarah Bell displays the outfit she will wear in the Rose Parade on Jan. 1, 2020. She will be marching with a float celebrating the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which won the right to vote for women in America.

Historian Sarah Bell knows firsthand that researching and writing a dissertation can be a long and often lonely process.

But on New Year’s Day, Bell, who earned a doctoral degree in May for her research on the women’s suffrage movement, will be more visible — an estimated 93 million people worldwide will be able to see her walking alongside a float in the 131st Rose Parade in Pasadena, Calif. The float celebrates the 100th anniversary of the adoption of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which granted women in America the right to vote.

Bell, a development officer at the Watkins Museum of History, was surprised when the letter arrived in early fall inviting her to be one of the 100 walkers dressed in white, replicating a suffrage parade. She thinks the invitation came because she serves as the state coordinator with the National Votes for Women Trail, a project that has been documenting sites important to the women’s suffrage movement.

As a part of the Humanities Kansas speakers bureau, Bell also travels around the state to present a program on the development of women’s clubs in Kansas.

The float is part of an initiative called Pasadena Celebrates 2020 that is associated with the National Women’s History Alliance. The initiative’s website says the float will portray the long history of the women’s suffrage movement and the key figures involved, including Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Ida B. Wells and Frederick Douglass. The 55-foot-long float will also include a 30-foot tall Statue of Liberty made out of roses.

While Bell considers it an honor to be invited, she had to pay $1,000 to participate. She will be combining the trip with a Christmas visit to northern California with her fiancé’s family. Then she will head south to Pasadena for the 4 a.m. parade check-in on Jan. 1. The parade begins at 8 a.m., and the route is five miles.

“They are pretty strict for the Rose Parade,” Bell said. “There are no bathroom breaks; if you get out of line, you can’t get back in the parade.”

photo by: Contributed photo

Sarah Bell displays the outfit she will wear in the Rose Parade on Jan. 1, 2020. She will be marching with a float celebrating the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which won the right to vote for women in America.

That strictness extends to the outfits for the parade. Bell had to run her outfit by the organizers for approval, and every part of it, including her sneakers, had to be white — no cream or off-white allowed. Her jacket, skirt, and hat came from the Lawrence Antique Mall, 830 Massachusetts St.

The organizers did let her deviate from the color scheme a little bit, though, with a yellow sunflower on her hat. She feels the sunflower is appropriate, as Kansas was the fourth state to ratify the 19th Amendment.

Bell will wear a sash with “Kansas” written on the front. She requested that the Kansas Historical Society’s name be put on the sash, as well; she has spent the past year working with the historical society on a new exhibit on women’s suffrage in the state.

When the marchers line up behind the float, Bell is hopeful they will go in order of each state’s ratification.

“I hope they put us in order, because then I will be fourth,” she said.

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