The theme of this year’s Women’s History Month “Valiant Women of the Vote: Refusing to Be Silenced,” is a continuation of last year’s theme, in recognition of the centennial celebration of women’s suffrage. Before the passage of the 19th Amendment, women had been fighting for the right to vote for almost 100 years. 2021 will mark the 101st anniversary of the landmark decision that granted women the right to participate in our democracy. As early as 1830s, women’s rights activists were meeting to organize and petition Congress on issues such as disenfranchisement, slavery, and the right to work and own property. In 1866, activists like Susan B. Anthony, Sojourner Truth and Lucretia Mott presented Congress with a petition that had over 10,000 signatures advocating for an amendment to be passed that would outlaw disenfranchisement on the basis of sex; resultantly, in 1868, for the first time, a federal women’s suffrage amendment is introduced to Congress. Two years later, the 15th Amendment was ratified, seemingly ending the disenfranchisement of black men. Women, however, were still being left out of the conversation.
Some states adopted women’s suffrage, but activist groups like ASWA (American Women Suffrage Association) and NSWA (National Woman Suffrage Association) hoped that the federal government would recognize the importance of women’s suffrage at the national level. Eventually, AWSA and NSWA merged becoming the National American Woman Suffrage Association, and they continued to petition congress for national women’s suffrage. They organized parades, rallies, and protests across the nation, and even though they faced adversity, they showed valiance. In 1915, 500,000 suffragists petitioned Congress and a few years later, President Woodrow Wilson publicly gave his support to the movement for women’s suffrage. One year later, the House of Representatives passed the Amendment 304 to 89 and on August 26, 1920 the 19th Amendment was signed into law.
Today, women are still at the forefront of many fights for civil rights because garnering the right to vote did not grant women full equality. Women today face issues such as wage gaps and inequality in the workforce and attempts to deny them of bodily autonomy in relation to reproductive rights, to name a few. As women continue to enter male-dominated fields like law and government, so too, our rights will be at the forefront of the conversations that are being had. Securing the right to vote was a tremendous achievement that paved the way for the women today who continue to fight for women’s political, social, and economic equality.