Getting the Message Out (and In): How the Public Interacts with its Government 

October is American Archives Month, a time to highlight the importance of archives and the work of archivists. The theme for this October is communication, and the Vermont State Archives and Records Administration (VSARA) has created an exhibit to show how the State and its constituents communicate with each other. Following up on our first post, here is a sneak peek of the second part of the exhibit, how the public interacts with its government. The examples shown here illustrate how Vermonters’ voices can help shape equal rights, policy-level decisions, and state identity. 

Petition for Equal Rights, 1858  

Women in America weren’t given the right to vote until the ratification of the 19th amendment in 1920. As early as 1858, Vermont women made their opinions on the subject known. This is one example of many such petitions by women, and it argued that women were taxed without representation in the law. In 1880, the Vermont legislature granted tax-paying women the right to vote in school district meetings, as well as the ability to serve as town clerks and to hold some school offices.   

Vermont Women’s Town Meeting Poster, 1977 

Vermont hosted a Women’s Town Meeting on February 26, 1977, to discuss women’s goals and accomplishments. It was the first such meeting in the nation and, despite a snowstorm, many women came to Montpelier for the event. Similar meetings were held across the country to draft recommendations and to delegate representatives to send to the National Women’s Conference in November of that year. The meetings were funded by a grant from the National Commission on the Observance of the International Women’s Year established by President Gerald Ford.     

Help Choose Vermont’s State Vegetable, 1984 

This poster represents a public campaign to help select Vermont’s State Vegetable, sponsored in part by the Departments of Agriculture and Education. It features a pad of ballot postcards, instructions for how to participate if there are no postcards left, and information about a student essay contest and prizes. The poster features cartoon vegetables drawn by Vermont illustrator, Tim Newcomb. This issue was not picked up by the Vermont Legislature in that year, and it wasn’t until 2015 that Vermont selected its representative vegetable, the Gilfeather turnip.   

This Moose Management Plan was the first plan drafted by the Department of Fish and Wildlife to sustainably manage Vermont’s growing moose population. It outlines the intent of the Department, the goals of the plan, and the steps to be taken for its implementation. While the initiative was spearheaded by the Department, the plan relied extensively on public feedback in the form of a committee of interested Vermonters, 18 public meetings, and surveys, all of which help inform the plan’s direction. (View the entire document

 You can view the entire exhibit in person at VSARA’s open house, Thursday, October 27 any time between 5-7 PM. See the exhibit, talk with VSARA staff, and get a behind-the-scenes tour. This is a FREE event! VSARA is located at 1078 US Route 2 in Middlesex; for any questions, please contact  

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