On August 26th, in the year 1920, the United States Congress ratified the 19th amendment to our Constitution, granting women the right to vote. Interestingly, women in New Zealand and South Australia led the way in the late 1800’s, by being the first to receive the right to vote. In Britain, thousands of women were involved in activities that ranged from passing out leaflets and marching in protest to chaining themselves to railings and getting arrested for public disorder. These women went on hunger strikes, were force fed and were not broken. Their passion crossed the ocean and came to the United States with parades and protests and calls for legislation. Our country’s history books name several women leaders of this suffragette movement, but we know, we KNOW that all women stood together on the battleground for equal rights. Today, we acknowledge their efforts to make sure that women had the same voting rights as white men, and after the Civil War, the same voting rights as black men.
Listen to the glorious words of one song of the suffragettes and hear their determination, their call for justice:
From the daughters of the nation
Bursts a cry of indignation
Breathes a sigh of consecration
In a sacred cause.
They who share their country’s burden
Win no rights, receive no guerdon,
Only bear the heavy burden
Of unrighteous laws.
Women young and older
Shoulder put to shoulder
In the might of sacred right
Bolder still and bolder.
Let no ancient custom bind you
Let one bond of suffering bind you
Leave unrighteous laws behind you,
Soon you shall be free!
We can look at those times now in our rear view mirrors and can shake our heads in wonder that there was even a time when a woman – or any other segment of the population – was treated differently than that of the male population. Because today we KNOW what the ability to vote has done for our country. We have been able to make significant impacts in social issues, affect change in education. We have been unleased to release our own potential. To contribute to our world, our society, our communities. We have, for 94 years, been able to be vocal in the direction we want our future to move. Most importantly, we are now heard.
Today is a reminder to not forget how hard our predecessors, our sisters worked on our behalf. Not just prior to August 26th, 1920, but every day before and every day since. And we are here to show that those efforts have made a difference. Statistics show us that we have the potential, if we take it, to significantly make a difference. In the 2012 elections, in every age category except one, women outnumbered men at the polls. In fact, female voters have outnumbered male voters in every presidential election since 1964. I must mention something here: Our sisters did not march as Republicans, or Democrats, or as whites or blacks or Asians, or homosexual or heterosexual….they marched as women. We would be doing them a disservice to allow those lines to keep us from achieving. As women, we are a damn powerful force!
So what are we going to do with that power? Let’s continue to make a difference, make 94 years really count for something. To quote yet another song of the suffragettes:
Now then, all forward together!
But remember, every one,
That ’tis not by feminine innocence
The work of the world is done.
The world needs strength and courage,
And wisdom to help and feed–
When, “We, as women” bring these to man,
We shall lift the world indeed.
Yes, my fellow women….We shall lift the world indeed!