One hundred years ago today, thanks to tireless efforts of activists, the 19th Amendment was added to the U.S. Constitution, affirming the right of women to vote.
“The right of 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.”
The amendment didn’t come out of nowhere, though. Prior to 1920, suffragettes had achieved some success by lobbying STATE legislatures to give them the right to vote. In fact, between 1867 and 1920, over fifty ballot measures were introduced in states, and 15 of them passed, giving women the right to vote. (Source)
But of course, the amendment did not give all women the right to vote. Even though Black women fought for suffrage alongside white women, the 19th Amendment didn’t give them the right to vote. (Except in some western states where there was no barrier to voting.) It took over 40 more years to fix that wrong, which happened when the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was signed into law.
Simply put, white suffragettes were influenced by racism and often sidelined Black activists. But they were there. People like Sojourner Truth, Francis Ellen Watkins Harper, Ida B. Wells, and Mary Church Terrell. You can read more about their contributions here: Essential Black Figures In The Women’s Suffrage Movement
There is much we want to change in our country. I surely hope that as we lock elbows with one another, that we do it together. Our diversity is our strength.
I’ll leave you with this quote from Elizabeth Cady Stanton, one of the first suffragettes in America who died before seeing the 19th Amendment come to pass, speaking to convince the men of her time:
“Come, come, my conservative friend, wipe the dew off your spectacles, and see that the world is moving.”
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