Within living memory, the unalienable right of a particular class of Americans to vote had not yet been legally recognized by the American legal system. That particular class of Americans represented fully half of the country’s inhabitants.
They were women.
Now, I will grant you that applying the phrase “within living memory” to a 94 year old fact is a little bit of a stretch — but there are American women alive today who were born into a world in which women couldn’t vote, and plenty more who were raised by such women.
Ninety-four years ago today, that all changed, with the US Congress voting to pass the 19th Amendment: “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.”
Between 1878, when the amendment was first introduced in Congress, and August 18, 1920, when it was ratified [by three-quarters of the states, as all Constitutional Amendments must be], champions of voting rights for women worked tirelessly, but strategies for achieving their goal varied. Some pursued a strategy of passing suffrage acts in each state–nine western states adopted woman suffrage legislation by 1912. Others challenged male-only voting laws in the courts. Militant suffragists used tactics such as parades, silent vigils, and hunger strikes. Often supporters met fierce resistance. Opponents heckled, jailed, and sometimes physically abused them.
So, yeah. To the women in positions of cultural, social, and/or political power who declare themselves “not a feminist, or anything,” even as they live and work in a world to which they would not have any access were it not for the work of our foremothers and -fathers, I say: If you’re not a feminist, I’d like you to grab a time machine and go back to 1919 to explain to the suffragettes why, exactly.
I’m sure they’d love to hear it. Just as soon as they have a moment to spare.
For more on Miss Paul (above), click here.