Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment
The Declaration of Independence states “all men are created equal.” While that is a crucial and victorious part of our history, women were excluded from this narrative. However on August 18th, 1920 the 19th amendment was ratified, stating:
the right of the citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.
This began an important and worthwhile fight. Today, we celebrate 100 years of one of the most important victories for women all across the nation.
This movement that would change the face of the country forever, began in 1848 with the Seneca Falls convention. Organized by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, it was attended by major political game changers such as Susan B. Anthony and Fredrick Douglas. Women and men made speeches and pressured members of congress to recognize the women's right to vote.
The role of women was changing, they were no longer chained to the expectations of a housewife. Women could become educated and were encouraged to become politically active and as their aspirations expanded they wanted to be integrated into society, no longer being held back by oppressive laws.
After many failed attempts, dating back to as early as decades of protesting and fighting paid off. In 1919, both Democrats and Republicans were in agreement and the amendment was passed by the House and the Senate, finally ratified in 1920.
While this was a huge triumph for many women, namely middle class white women, the fight was long from over. Women of color, immigrants, and lower income women were often deterred from voting by laws and social pressure. African American women played a huge part in earning women's suffrage in 1920 but their fight, especially in the South, lasted much longer. They wouldn't truly earn the right to vote until 1965. Things like the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1943, the adoption of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, the 24th Amendment in 1964 and the Voting Rights Act in 1965, along with its amendments of 1970 and 1975 were what truly led to victory for all women.
Today, women voters are just as resilient and not only play an important, but essential part of politics. According to Pew Research Center, women have higher turnout for midterm elections dating all the way back to 1998. According to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, women have voted at higher rates than men in every presidential election since 1964.
The first women to be elected into the House in 1916 was Jeanette Rankin but only in the past few decades have women begun to truly increase their numbers. Nearly two thirds of the women elected into the House since Rankin have been elected in the last 28 years. Today, 102 women serve in the House of Representatives, a record breaking number. Women have made it extremely clear, their voices are important and they demand to be heard.
It took decades of marching, organizing, and standing up to folks who thought that democracy should be of, by, and for only some of the people. And then we had to fight for decades more to ensure that women of color could cast their ballots as well. These victories were hard-won. But the struggle was worth it because our foremothers knew that our vote is our voice. It gives us the power to determine the course of our lives and the direction of our country.
The greatest way to honor the heroes who paved the way for equality is to vote. They fought tirelessly for us and we must repay them by showing them their struggles were worthwhile. Your vote matters and in order to make this country a place to be proud we have to honor each and every voice. Leaders such as Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton gave us the power to change the world, so show up to elections and celebrate one of the most beautiful privileges we are granted as American citizens.
Presley Berry is a Dual Correspondent for The National Times