–Barack Obama 44th President of the United States
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. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
Text of the 19th amendment
Women’s Equality Day is proclaimed each year by the United States President to commemorating August 26th, the day in 1920 when the 19th amendment was certified and women in the United States were guaranteed the right to vote in every state in the union.
The struggle for the vote for women started with the birth of the nation. Few realize that the US Constitution has no proscription against women voting. However most states had practices and policies that prohibited voting by women. In 1838, Kentucky authorized women to vote in school elections and its reforms were later copied by other states. In 1869, the Wyoming Territory granted women voting rights on an equal basis with men and continued the practice following its admission to statehood. By 1914, just 10 states had joined Wyoming and other legal efforts to secure the right for all women had failed. The pursuit of women’s suffrage however included many of the racially and culturally biased themes we still see today with some white women distancing themselves from Black and Mexican people because they thought that would further their cause. After many years of campaigning by women’s groups on national and local levels, the 19th amendment was certified on August 26th 1920 establishing a uniform rule for all states to follow in guaranteeing women the right to vote. Even after the ratification of the 19th amendment however, the struggle continued for some. In many southern states, African American women were unable to freely exercise their right to vote up until the 1960s.
Today women consistently participate more than men in the electoral process. According the the US Census 65.7% of eligible female voters (70.4 million) voted in the 2008 election vs 61.5% (60.7 million) of male eligible voters. In Arizona, 42% of women vs 39% of men voted in the election in 2014.
As we approach yet another national election, it is important to celebrate this victory for women and how we were all enriched by expanding our democracy to include women and people of color. And as we remember, we can also consider:
- How do we continue to form a “more perfect union”?
- What current practices and policies are hindering our ability to “establish justice”?
- Who else needs to be fully included in our democracy to “promote the general welfare”?