It’s been one hundred years since Congress ratified the 19th amendment to the Constitution, allowing white women to vote. (Women of color had to wait an extra 45 years until 1965 under the Voting Rights Act.) To put that amount of time into perspective, here are a few other things that happened in the year 1920. The League of Nations, which would become the United Nations, was established. In September, a cart exploded and killed 38 people in the Wall Street Bombing. One hundred years is a lifetime, but it can also whir by in the blink of an eye.
Although a century has passed, and women have officially gained the right to vote, the world has a long way to go. Women across America and the world still grapple with so many issues, among them being abortion, equal pay, equal rights, and more.
Even though the right to vote was granted a century ago, the women’s suffrage movement traces back way before that. In 1848, the Seneca Falls convention was held in New York. This was 72 years before the 19th amendment was eventually ratified.
Many women made the difficult journey of becoming suffragists and changed the course of history. Some notable women in the movement included Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. These two women were driving forces in the women’s suffrage movement and did countless things to help make the world a better place.
In 1866, Anthony and Stanton created the American Equal Rights Association, another step towards equality. They also co-founded the Revolution, a newspaper to express their viewpoints. The Revolution began in 1868. Anthony and Stanton were certainly not the only two women in the suffrage movement but they did so much to propel the movement.
Just three years after the 19th amendment was ratified, the Equal Rights Amendment (or ERA) was introduced. This was an amendment proposed to make the legal rights of men and women equal. These equal rights included equality in divorce, education, property, and more.
Alice Paul was a key figure in the ERA and additionally a huge leader in the National Women’s Party. She led the NWP which helped push the women’s suffrage movement forward and the National American Woman Suffrage Association.
Women’s rights in the world have certainly changed and improved in one hundred years. The suffragists of the 19th and 20th centuries didn’t work so hard for nothing. So many women had to work tirelessly to ensure what many of us take for granted.
So, how does this history connect with modern times? Today, women deal with countless issues. The gender pay gap is still present, as of August 2019 a woman earned 80.7 cents to a man’s dollar. Pay gaps for women of color are significantly lower. According to Women’s Policy Research, the gender pay gap won’t be closed until 2059, almost 130 years after the 19th amendment was ratified. This is “based on the rate of progress… since 1959,” according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. It is a projection, not a truth, and we can work to change that. According to Forbes, discussion among government and lawmakers, along with education on the topic, can help. Women themselves can “negotiate more and negotiate harder.”
Though women have gained many other rights within a grueling century, their representation in government is minuscule compared to men. In all of its history, the US Senate has had 57 female senators in its 230 years of existence, compared to 1,307 total Senators since 1789. That is roughly four percent!
But all is not lost. The world has only just begun the fight for women and will not give up on it. There are women every day fighting for the fundamental rights that have not been given to them. They inspire, empower, and make a monumental difference.
Here are some ways you can support women and take part in this movement:
A list of charities for women’s rights:
List of Austin women’s events coming soon:
Art by Grace Slagle