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95 years on, still work to do for equal rights

August 26, 2015
By Amber Hovey , Estherville News

Yesterday, Aug. 26, 2015, marked the 95th anniversary of when American women finally won the right to vote in 1920. Thanks to unrelenting work of suffrage activists like Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, the 19th Amendment was passed by Congress in 1919 and then ratified by the states in 1920.

35 states passed the amendment by March 1920, which was one state shy of the two-thirds needed to pass. With most the southern states against women's suffrage, the vote came down to Tennessee, whose state legislature was split 48-48. The tie was broken by 24 year old lawmaker Harry Burn, who apparently received a letter from his mother urging him to "be a good boy" and vote for women's rights.

The 19th Amendment was introduced in 1878. When Supreme Court ruled against them in 1890, Alice Walker formed the National Woman's Party in 1916 and led the suffragists who picketed the White House leading to the arrest of over 200 suffragists. These women then went on a hunger strike in prison and had to be force fed to stay alive.

Today, women are voting more than men but hold political office in much smaller numbers according to numbers presented by the Center for American Women and Politics, Clinton Foundation No Ceilings Report and the U.S. Census.

In 2015, three out nine Supreme Court representatives are women. In Congress, 104 out of 535 members are women, making up 19 percent of the House of Representatives and 20 percent of Senators. Only six of 50 governors are female and they only make up 18 percent of mayors of cities with more than 30,000 people and 24 percent of state legislatures.

Interestingly however, 71.4 million women voted in 2012 compared to the 61.6 million men.

On the global front, while making progress, only 22 percent of all national elected representatives are female.

Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah granted women the right to vote just this year as well as the right to run in 2015 local elections and to be appointed to his advisory Shura Council. However, the Vatican City still does not allow women to vote.

In a presidential proclamation released Monday by the White House Press office, President Obama said, "From day one, my administration has carried forward the torch of gender equality, working tirelessly to ensure that all of America's daughters have the same rights as her sons. When women succeed, American succeeds."

It easy to take for the granted the rights that many of us were born with rather than had to fight for. It is on Wednesday as well as this week that we look back on all that women before us have gone through to make it possible for women to vote today. While there is still ground to be fought in the battle for gender equality, we have come a long ways since the suffragist first stood up and demanded their right to vote.



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