Today marks a significant step in history toward gender equality: the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment, granting US citizens the right to vote regardless of sex. Its passage came after decades of pressure from suffragists dedicated to women’s rights through the form of speeches, publications, petitions, marches, protests, and more. The women’s suffrage movement spanned over 70 years, with the 1848 Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, NY widely considered as the movement’s launch.
While the 19th amendment gave women nationwide the right to vote, many women of color were entirely excluded. Suffragists, like Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Mabel Ping-Hua Lee and Gertrude Simmons Bonnin (Zitkála-Šá), were integral to the suffrage movement and fought for equality while also facing segregation and discrimination within the movement. For many years after 1920, many women and men still could not vote — Indigenous Americans could not vote until they were granted citizenship in 1924, Chinese Americans not until the repeal of the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1943, and, until the Voting Rights Act of 1965, many Black and Latinx Americans were disenfranchised due to voter suppression including poll taxes, literacy tests, and discrimination laws.
The women’s suffrage movement was more than the right to vote — it was a fight for equal rights for women including access to credit, education, workers’ rights, and pay equity. The movement also laid the groundwork for later policy, like the Equal Pay Act and Title IX, and equal representation in government. Today, women hold 23.7% of the seats in US Congress, and there are a record number of women running for office in the upcoming 2020 election. There is still much work to be done in creating a more equitable society and protecting equal rights, but the progress that has been made stems from the persistence and resilience of past suffragists.
Yesterday, we spoke to Dr. Donna Lynne, former Lieutenant Governor of Colorado and leader within the Women’s Vote Commission Colorado. She shared more of the history on women’s suffrage at the state-level, the importance of having women in government as policy-makers and role models, and encouraged women to support one another. Donna also shared resources like When Women Vote, History Colorado’s virtual programming in celebration of the 19th amendment, and Emerge which helps women run for office.
A way to use your voice and enact change is to vote. You can register to vote here, learn about absentee and early voting here, and check your local voting dates and requirements here. Although it has been 100 years, the fight for equal rights and representation still exists today. We encourage you to use your voice, get involved, and help drive further progress.
DWN Leadership Team