Women urged to take advantage of hard-won right to vote
Editor’s note: Portions of this column were published in 2011.
Today marks a milestone in women’s history — the 92nd anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which grants women the right to vote.
The day marks another anniversary, as well. In 1971, the U.S. Congress designated Aug. 26 as Women’s Equality Day at the behest of Rep. Bella Abzug (D-NY).
According to the National Women’s History Project (http://www.nwhp.org) /resourcecenter/equalityday.php), Aug. 26 was selected “to commemorate the 1920 passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. This was the culmination of a massive, peaceful civil rights movement by women that had its formal beginnings in 1848 at the world’s first women’s rights convention, in Seneca Falls, N.Y.”
Also on the website is the joint resolution of Congress of 1971, which designates Aug. 26 of each year as Women’s Equality Day. I thought it would be interesting for all of us, both women and men, to read the text:
“WHEREAS, the women of the United States have been treated as second-class citizens and have not been entitled the full rights and privileges, public or private, legal or institutional, which are available to male citizens of the United States; and
WHEREAS, the women of the United States have united to assure that these rights and privileges are available to all citizens equally regardless of sex; and
WHEREAS, the women of the United States have designated August 26, the anniversary date of the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, as symbol of the continued fight for equal rights: and
WHEREAS, the women of United States are to be commended and supported in their organizations and activities,
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, that August 26th of each year is designated as Women’s Equality Day, and the President is authorized and requested to issue a proclamation annually in commemoration of that day in 1920, on which the women of America were first given the right to vote, and that day in 1970, on which a nationwide demonstration for women’s rights took place.”
I wonder, sometimes, if we fully understand the impact of this day. If we do, why don’t we honor the sacrifices of our foremothers, take action for ourselves and vote?
As far back as I can recall, my mother voted in every election. She told me one time that when women were granted the right to vote, her mother availed herself of that right at the first opportunity and cast a ballot.
Looking back at history, the first presidential election following the ratification of the 19th Amendment took place in November 1920, the contest between Republican contenders Warren G. Harding and running mate Calvin Coolidge and the Democratic candidate, James M. Cox and his running mate, Franklin D. Roosevelt (who would later become the 32nd president). According to http://www.history.com , “In the general election, the Harding-Coolidge ticket defeated the Democrats in the largest landslide up to that time, capturing some 60 percent of the popular vote and an electoral margin of 404-127.”
The total popular vote increased dramatically as women celebrated their newly won right; from http://uselectionatlas.org , in 1916, 18.5 million voted while in 1920, that number rose to 26.8 million.
Gives me cold chills knowing my grandmother was counted in that number.
It took me a little longer to understand the importance of making my voice heard in the electoral process, but I have voted my conscience in most elections over the past 10 years or so. Early voting may be more convenient, but my preference is to vote on Election Day itself at my community polling place. There’s something so stimulating about being right there as history is being made ...
Do you want a voice in what happens in your city, county and country? Vote. You don’t like the candidates? Nothing is new under the sun; vote for the one you feel will do the least damage. Disagree with your neighbor on issues or candidates? Respect her opinion but do what you feel is best.
And never, ever, take this hard-won right for granted. It was a long time in coming; we certainly don’t want apathy to take it away.
Linda Albert is Sunday Life editor and a staff writer for The Daily Times. Her column runs every Sunday in the Life section. You may contact her at 981-1168 or (firstname.lastname@example.org)