On June 4, 1919, the 19th Amendment was passed. This amendment stated, “The right of 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.” This amendment did make some change, I will not deny that; however, this amendment failed to recognize the hard work and struggles of countless African-American women who fought for equality under the law: Addie Waites Hunton, Ida B. Wells and Sojourner Truth, to name a few. History books have obscured the efforts, coalition building and dedication of women in order to simply state that women were granted the right to vote in 1919. They fail to acknowledge that the 19th Amendment only granted suffrage to white women. It was not until 1965, with the passage of the Voting Rights Act, that the right to vote was granted to Black women.
So why am I, a white woman, writing an article on the 19th Amendment if I was granted the right to vote 100 years ago? Simply put, I believe that white women as a collective — myself included — have not done enough with our right to vote. It is inexcusable that it took nearly five decades for women of color to be granted their voting rights, especially because they worked so hard to get them.
In order to maintain and honor the hard work of all the suffragists before our time, we must act now. This action includes educating ourselves on policies, candidates and political parties. We must vote, regardless of how much or little we believe our vote counts. We must work actively to ensure a better and more inclusive future for all the women that come after us. It is imperative that we include and center the voices of all women, including and especially women of color. Until we are able to fully embrace the fact that gender justice must coincide with racial justice, all women will continue to face obstacles. The active engagement of women in voting and policymaking benefits everyone. When all women are given the tools to succeed, quality of life within the community improves.
According to Women’s Vote Centennial, “today, more than 68 million women vote in elections.” While that is a significant improvement, progress in the path toward gender equity has been slow. According to NPR, “more women than ever in history are running for Congress in 2020.” Kamala Harris just became the first Black and South Asian female vice presidential candidate of a major political party, but she is not the first woman of color to make huge waves. Representative Shirley Chisholm (a Democrat from New York) became the first woman and the first African-American to run for a major political party’s presidential nomination in 1972 when she ran as a Democrat.
Furthermore, several other issues are still evading a solution. There is still an ever-present wage gap affecting women of all races. Women still remain tremendously underrepresented in all levels and sectors of the business and politics world. CNN has stated that “women currently make up only 23.7% of the U.S. Congress and only 5.8% of Fortune 500 CEOs — and these numbers fall even lower when it comes to women of color.”
With so many issues still prevalent, many of us are voting like our lives depend on it, because in many cases they do. According to the Center for American Women and Politics, “the number of female voters has exceeded the number of male voters in every presidential election since 1964.” This exciting revelation has much to do with important policies that have been of interest to women, including reproductive rights, gender equality and safety in education. If our vote truly does not matter, then why was the government so afraid of granting us this right in the first place?
Women of color have been breaking barriers and fighting injustice in a world that has largely been set up against their successes. Much of our history today has been impacted and changed by women of color, who deserve the same respect, if not more, than Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. As women, isn’t it time that our votes reflect the educated individuals we are, as well as our desires for equality for all?
By Rachel Van Horne, News Editor