2020 has been a difficult year.
Every day we have another reminder that life is not perfect in the USA. Racial injustice. Inequality. Illness. Quarantine. Frustration. Anger. Explosive conflict.
Those with power do not like to share. Progress only comes from conflict.
Some of my earliest memories were my mom and dad whispering in my ear how I can do anything I want to do – be anything I want to be. I believed them. I never thought twice about going to college for advanced degrees. I became a professional in a man’s field, a railroad labor relations officer, one of a few women in the room. I assumed I could do anything I wanted.
My mom was denied the opportunity to be a doctor in the 1940’s because she got married. Her work options were to be a nurse or a teacher. She chose teaching. Despite her encouragement, never in her wildest imagination did she think I could be a business leader, much less have the success I achieved. She was terribly proud of me!
I am a white woman who took what she wanted. All my successes are built on the backs of women who went before me. I saw no limitations because the generations of women before me fought hard to make my choices possible.
The 19th Amendment to the US Constitution prohibits discrimination in voting rights based on sex giving American women the right to vote. The amendment was ratified on August 18, 1920, and certified on August 26, 1920, 100 years ago!
The fight was real and took years. The first women’s suffrage campaigns began in 1869 after the civil war, after the 14th Amendment was passed in 1868 guaranteeing citizenship to all male persons born or naturalized in the US. The 15th Amendment passed in 1870 prevented states from denying the right to vote on the grounds of “race, color, or previous condition of servitude,” but this only applied to men, not women.
Just like racial and social justice fights happening today, the fight for women’s suffrage was real, bloody, and violent. White men in power did not want to share. The arguments against women’s suffrage read like the arguments against social justice today. They argued that women did not need special treatment because everything was fine the way it was. Sound like arguments we hear today about social justice and Black Lives Matter?
It took years of protests, marches and, yes, violence, to achieve the right to vote on August 26, 1920.
Today we say thank you and celebrate the women (and men) who fought so hard to get us the right to vote. These fights led to broad-based modern day acceptance of concepts of economic and political equality, and social reform. We are thankful, but we cannot be complacent.