Ninety years ago today, the 19th amendment, giving women the right to vote, officially became part of the U.S. Constitution.
There are still some women living – perhaps your grandmother or a great aunt -- who were born before the vote was granted them.
The right was won through decades of exhausting effort. Many mark the beginning of the U.S. suffrage movement as the 1848 Woman’s Rights Convention held in Seneca Falls, New York.
Ten years before that convention, Pitcairn Islands had granted women the right to vote.
Before U.S. women received suffrage, 27 other nations had approved women’s voting rights, including New Zealand in 1893, Australia in 1902, Finland in 1906, Norway in 1913, Iceland and Denmark in 1915, Canada and Russia in 1917, Poland, Germany, Ireland, Austria, Hungary, and the UK in 1918, Sweden, Netherlands, Belgium, Belarus and Luxembourg in 1919.
If you’re ever tempted to think that the right to vote came naturally with the passage of time and the enlightenment of society….think again.
In January 1878, the "Anthony Amendment" to extend the vote to women was first introduced into the U.S. Congress. It took 52 long years before that amendment became part of our Constitution.
In Gail Collins’ New York Times column, "My Favorite August," she describes how much excruciating effort went into securing women's right to vote.
I’ll quote her third paragraph: The struggle involved "56 referendum campaigns directed at male voters, 480 campaigns to get Legislatures to submit suffrage amendments to voters, 47 campaigns to get constitutional conventions to write woman suffrage into state constitutions; 277 campaigns to get State party conventions to include woman suffrage planks, 30 campaigns to get presidential party campaigns to include woman suffrage planks in party platforms and 19 campaigns with 19 successive Congresses."
Think of all the women and work that went into all these campaigns.
Susan B. Anthony was jailed for trying to cast her vote. Many of the women who marched, wrote and spoke on behalf of suffrage were also jailed. Many were beaten. All were ridiculed in newspapers and magazines and in numerous Capitol Hill speeches.
The historic struggle was not pretty. Most of the men holding elective office did not come across as heroes in this struggle, or even as intelligent adults. Yet, their prejudice and misogyny held sway for decades.
But those women and men who saw suffrage as the only decent and moral choice eventually garnered enough votes to secure it. And 90 years ago today, that right was ratified.
If you ever catch yourself feeling too weary or bored or irritated to vote, please take a moment to remember those who sacrificed years of their lives, so that you could have a voice in your government.
Today’s an excellent day for that moment of reflection.
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