WASHINGTON — Introduced to Congress in 1878, the 19th Amendment to the constitution would prohibit states and the federal government from denying the right to vote to any citizen of the United States based on their sex, guaranteeing women the right to vote.
It took decades, but in 1919, it passed the House and Senate. To become a law though, 36 states needed to ratify it. Stuck on 35, a vote in the Tennessee legislature would decide things, bringing us to state Rep. Harry T Burn. Tennessee was gridlocked, and Burn planned to break it by voting “Nay”. But in his pocket a letter from his mother, telling him to be a good boy and vote to ratify. He went back and forth but, in the end, like all good boys, he followed Mom’s advice and on Aug 26, 1920, the 19th Amendment was signed into law. Today, its 100th anniversary.
Championed by New York Congresswoman Bella Abzug and designated by congress in 1973 Women's Equality Day is the commemoration of that signing and a celebration of the brave women who fought all those years to make it happen.
Women like Susan B Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, O.G.s of the movement, who dedicated their lives to the fight for equality. Women like lawyer, suffragist and World War I correspondent Inez Milholland, who, in 1913, led the Woman Suffrage Procession March on Washington from horseback. Women like Ida B Wells, the suffrage and anti-lynching crusader whose face is now adorns the floor of Union Station. A mosaic made up of pictures of thousands of women who fought for their right to vote.
It was a hard road for a these women. Each and all of them dealing with horrific treatments. They faced verbal abuse. They were beaten. They were arrested. Enduring what can only be torture at the hands of their jailers. Scorned by the public. But they persisted. They endured. And like Maya said, they rose.
Full equality for women is not here yet. Women still have less earning power and potential than men. They still face a lack of equity in almost every facet of American life. But because of these women who stood on those lines, they have the power to shape their own destinies.
That’s what a vote is: Power. Susan B Anthony and Ida B Wells knew this. And so did Harry Burn’s mother. Happy Women’s Equality Day, ladies. You having this power benefits all of us.