We take a lot of things in life for granted.
Meaning there are things in our lives that are there, have always been there, and we assume will always be there.
Like the right to open a bank account, apply for and receive credit cards, own property, start a business, and – something that’s at the forefront of everyone’s mind right now – the right to cast a vote in a free and fair election.
We mention those rights for one reason:
Women fought for every one of them.
You read that correctly.
Until the Equal Right’s Amendment (ERA) of 1972, women were not allowed to have their own credit cards. There are a host of other rights that were not guaranteed under law until the ERA passed Congress almost fifty years ago.
In case you need a refresher, the ERA sought to end legal distinctions between men and women with regards to divorce, property, and employment. Here’s what Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said about the ERA:
“The amendment would eliminate the historical impediment to unqualified judicial recognition of equal rights and responsibilities for men and women as constitutional principle; and it would serve as a clear statement of the nation’s moral and legal commitment to a system in which women and men stand as full and equal individuals before the law.”
But the ERA – as important as it is – is not what this article is about. If you’re interested, click here to read more about the ERA, and help speed its ratification by all states in the U.S. FYI: It has not been ratified by all states.
This article is about something that is, believe it or not, more important to women than the ERA.
It’s about the right to vote.
Women’s History Month 2020: Valiant Women of the Vote
It’s possible to trace the historical foundations of Women’s History Month back to 1857, when a group of women organized a protest over working conditions at several factories in New York City. The first Women’s Day was held in 1909 in New York City, but it took seventy years for Congress to establish Women’s History Week in 1981, which was expanded to a full month in 1987. Since then, women around the country have joined together in the month of March to raise awareness about women’s rights.
This year’s theme is women’s suffrage, a.k.a. the right of women to vote.
Because this August marks the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which guaranteed the right to vote for all women in the United States.
The wording of the amendment is remarkably simple:
“The right of the 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. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”
The path to its passage, however, was far from simple.
Beginning in the early 19th century, women organized, petitioned, protested, got arrested, got out of jail, organized more, petitioned more, protested more, got arrested more, and kept raising their voices until they finally earned the right to vote on August 18th, 1920.
This year’s theme honors those women who persisted: The Valiant Women of the Vote. To read their stories – and a detailed account of how women won the vote – read the story “How Women Won the Vote” published this year by the National Women’s History Alliance.
Homework Assignment: (S)Heroes of the Vote
Do you know your suffragette history?
For instance, can you name five women – other than Susan B. Anthony – without whom women would not have the right to vote?
It’s okay if you can’t – not many people can.
That’s the entire reason for this year’s theme: the National Women’s History Alliance wants women and girls around the country to learn about the brave pioneers who worked their entire lives on this issue, and won the right to vote against stern opposition and almost impossible odds.
Here’s a list of women who worked throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries to ensue this fundamental civic right:
- Alice Stokes Paul (Moorestown, NJ)
- Alice Stone Blackwell (Orange, NJ)
- Anna Howard Shaw (Newcastle-On-Tyne, England)
- Carrie Lane Chapman Catt (Ripon, WI)
- Charlotte Perkins Gilman (Hartford, CT)
- Elizabeth Cady Stanton (Johnstown, NY)
- Frances Elizabeth Caroline Willard (Churchville, NY)
- Harriot Stanton Blatch (Seneca Falls, NY)
- Ida Bell Wells-Barnett (Holy Springs, MS)
- Jeannette Pickering Rankin (Missoula, MT)
- Lucretia Coffin Mott (Nantucket, MA)
- Lucy Stone (West Brookfield, MA)
- Mary Eliza Church Terrell (Memphis, TN)
- Maud Wood Park (Boston, MA)
- Sojourner Truth (Swartekill, NY)
- SUSAN BROWNELL ANTHONY (Adams, MA)
We’d love it if families would get together and research these Valiant Women of the Vote. Not just moms and daughters – we want dads, sons, and brothers to get involved, too. Everyone needs to know women’s history. Everyone needs to know the challenges these women faced and overcame to earn the right to vote, and everyone needs to celebrate and honor the role women play in their lives every day.
Otherwise, we’ll take them – and the rights they earned – for granted.
Now that would be a big mistake.
Angus is a writer from Atlanta, GA who writes about behavioral health, adolescent development, education, and mindfulness practices like yoga, tai chi, and meditation.