One hundred years ago women received the right to vote. It’s crazy to think — on this historic election day in 2020 — that it wasn’t really all that long ago that the 19th Amendment was ratified. Women fought hard for long before that fateful August in 1920. Seventy years long they battled for their right. And we have fought in one way or another for the right to vote ever since. This rolling ball of female power may bestow a multitude of ‘firsts’ even still this year — including the first female vice president. And a VP who is a Person of Color no less.
The Democrats may take the Senate while installing more women into positions of power. The country may start to look more Blue. And the country may begin to repair from policies that have hurt families. Hurt communities. And a virus that will have set women back decades.
This year we need to honor this right to vote by ‘voting like it is 1920.’ We need to vote to honor those women who voted for the first time during the 1920 presidential election. And the young women who will vote for the first time today. And for adding a women and a Women of Color to the second highest office in the land.
The Long Fight Begins For The Right to Vote
It took 70 years to reach the date whereby the 19th Amendment became law. Just think about that. This timeline from USA Today beautifully shows the path. A very, very long path. In 1848 the first Women’s Rights Convention took place in Seneca Falls, New York. Elizabeth Cady Stanton presented “The Declaration of Sentiments” to crowd of a few hundred women. And from there the fight endured.
“He has endeavored, in every way that he could to destroy her confidence in her own powers, to lessen her self-respect, and to make her willing to lead a dependent and abject life.”‘The Declaration of Sentiments’, July 19, 1848
And it was just two years later that now thousands of women attended the first National Women’s Rights Convention in 1850 in Massachusetts. And as the ball started rolling, Women of Color joined the fight too. Sojourner Truth delivered her “Ain’t I a Woman?” speech in 1851.
“Then that little man in black there, he says women can’t have as much rights as men, ’cause Christ wasn’t a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.”‘Ain’t I a Woman?’, Sojourner Truth
Decades of Strife and Western States Lead
By 1878 the 1920 law was already written by Susan B. Anthony. And this amendment in her name was presented to Congress. Unfortunately it would take decades to manifest. Although, through the intervening years states began granting the right to vote to women. Especially those in the western part of the United States where attracting women to live was critical to American expansion. In fact, the territory of Wyoming granted women the right in 1869 (Wyoming then became a state in 1890).
Whereas many of the Western states of the US are considered today to be quite conservative. They did lead the way in a woman’s right to vote. Utah became a state in 1896 and wrote into its constitution this right to vote. Idaho soon followed.
Even so, the fight got more brutal. The effort became more intense and the ball kept rolling right into 1920. The debt of gratitude we owe the women who didn’t give up is enormous. And for them we never stop exercising our right to vote.
From the Right to Vote to Taking the Helm
Of course, securing the vote was just a start on the path to leadership. And all along the way — from the late 1800s onward — we had women who eyed a bigger role for themselves. In fact, finally seeing a woman as president (or even as vice president) has been well over a 100 years in the making. So we are long overdue. In 1872, suffragist and business owner Victoria Woodhull was the first woman to run for president. While not taken seriously (as some considered her ineligible because she was younger than the mandated 35) she quite seriously did run.
Victoria was also the first woman to address a U.S. House committee when she argued to the Judiciary Committee that women had the right to vote based on the 14th Amendment. More than two dozen women have since entered their name for consideration as president or vice president since that first election. And hopefully 148 years is long enough to wait.
Congress has seen much more success. In 1916, Jeannette Rankin of Montana was the first woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives and the first woman elected to Congress. Although Elizabeth Cady Stanton was the first woman to run for the U.S. House of Representatives in 1866 (despite being ineligible to vote). She ran as an Independent from New York and received 24 votes (out of 12,000).
Rutgers Center for American Women and Politics has a fantastic tool to search through all of the amazing milestones achieved by women. From the right to vote up to the make up of Congress today. And all of the amazing firsts in between.
Today Should be Epic
It feels like with the multitude of distractions upon us during election 2020 we are losing sight of how tremendous the achievements of women within our current Congress have been. And the number of firsts that have abounded during this session are inspiring.
In 2018, Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) became the first openly bisexual person elected to the US Senate. Sharice Davids (D-KS) and Deb Haaland (D-NM) became the first Native American women elected to Congress. While
Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) became the first Muslim women. And of course Kamala Harris has been breaking glass left and right her entire career. She was the first South Asian and just second Black woman elected to the US Senate. And today she is our first chance at a women in the executive branch of government.
But the 2020 election is just the start. The 100 years after the right to vote was granted need to be an equally passionate fight for what’s good and what’s right. So go vote like it’s 1920 today. The wind is behind us on this one.