This week marks an important anniversary in the history of American democracy. An anniversary that tells the story of all women in this country, that offers us an opportunity for celebration, reflection, and gratitude.
One hundred years ago, on August 18, 1920, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was officially ratified by three-quarters of the states. This amendment prevented voting discrimination based upon sex and marked the single largest expansion of voting rights in US history. Now, 100 years later, more than 68 million American women vote—thanks to the courageous suffragists who never gave up the fight for equality.
Although the story of the fight women waged for the right to vote has often been relegated to a footnote in our history books, this historical success story was the result of black and white women mobilizing and leading grassroots efforts across the country.
Women like Ida B. Wells, Carrie Chapman Catt, Alice Paul, and Mary Church Terrell led the way, continuing the work of earlier generations of suffragists like Sojourner Truth, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Harriet Tubman.
The stories of these women, and the thousands of suffragists who organized to win access to the ballot, are a testament to the positive change that women can drive when they have a shared cause and vision.
There is always pushback to major change—Mississippi didn’t ratify the 19th Amendment until 1984, and there has been no shortage of voting restrictions aimed at preventing Black women and American Indian women from voting. But this is a success story that should be told and celebrated.
At YWCA St. Paul, we are committed to empowering all women. As we reflect on the grassroots efforts of yesterday’s suffragists, we are grateful and inspired to continue the important work of encouraging citizens to exercise this important right, in pursuit of a fair and equitable community for all.