There’s a movement spreading across the country this year. One which recognizes a monumental event. It’s not about race, the election, or the coronavirus and the economy. It’s about gender.
And it’s every bit as important as the others.
The fight for women’s suffrage was won, on a national level, 100 years ago this August. Women gained the right to vote after the 19th Amendment was ratified on Aug. 18, 1919, and certified by U.S. Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby on Aug. 26 of that year.
This accomplishment stands as one of the most notable national victories in regard to gender equality in the past century.
Since January, organizations, local, state and national, have been celebrating this 100-year anniversary. Included in the effort to raise awareness of women’s fight for the vote is Women’s Equality Day, observed every year on Aug. 26.
ON THAT DAY last month, a statue depicting women’s rights pioneers was unveiled in New York’s Central Park, becoming the first monument in the park to honor historical heroines as opposed to fictional female characters.
“This is a collection of statues of great men who accomplished great things, and the fact that there were no statues of women seemed to mean that the accomplishments of women were meaningless, certainly not worthy of a statue,” sculptor Meredith Bergmann said. “So it’s long overdue, and it’s wonderful that these three great and inspiring and incredibly hardworking activist women are here in Central Park and they can inspire us to continue to fight for equal rights, for fairness and for justice for women, for minority groups, for people of color, for everyone now.”
Earlier in August (Aug. 18), President Donald Trump officially pardoned leading suffragist Susan B. Anthony. Anthony was arrested in 1872 for voting before it was legal for women to do so. Political backlash erupted and the National Susan B. Anthony Museum declined the offer of a pardon from the president.
The best way to honor Anthony would be a clear stance on voter suppression, support for the Equal Rights Amendment, and advocacy for human rights for all, museum president Deborah L. Hughes declared in a statement.
Also on Aug. 26, the League of Women Voters of Vigo County hosted a virtual march on Facebook celebrating Women’s Equality Day. The league is a voice for women’s equality, but its main goal continues to be extending and supporting the fight for voter equality.
In a story by Tribune-Star reporter Alex Modesitt, Carly Schmitt, the league’s current president, said the organization’s efforts moving forward must include stripping away barriers to voting in this upcoming and all future elections. Schmitt said the League of Women Voters is taking “a firm stand on voting being extended to all citizens, particularly when it comes to vote by mail.
“This issue is something that I think the women who came before us would be quite proud of,” Schmitt said. “And as we look forward to the next 100 years, I have considered what the women who came before us would want us to do.”
NO DOUBT women of all generations have been inspired by those early suffragists.
From women of the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s who broadened the debate on women’s rights by questioning perceptions of a woman’s place in the domestic world, inequities in the workplace, in politics and in sexuality and reproductive rights, to the women of the late 20th and early 21st centuries who continue those fights with even more specific agendas on equal pay, violence against women, movements such as #MeToo and by making greater advances in the political realm.
As we head toward the end of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic is laying bare even more inequities as women struggle to continue working full-time jobs while they serve as teachers to their children, juggling just one more duty with no extra pay and fewer resources for child care.
Indeed, we owe these suffragists much as we continue the fight for gender equality. It’s our hope that one day, the daughters of our children’s children can look back and see a country where women are not discriminated against on the basis of sex in any realm of their lives.
Tribune-Star, Terre Haute