Reflecting on 100 Years of Women's Voting Rights - America's Future Foundation

August 18, 2020

Culture

Reflecting on 100 Years of Women’s Voting Rights

By: Savannah Lindquist

As our country celebrates the 100th anniversary of the passing of the 19th Amendment, I’ve found myself reflecting on what this centennial celebration means to me.

As a millennial woman, I’ve grown up knowing that I had a role in the political process. I never had to deal with unnecessary barriers preventing me from casting my vote once I turned 18. Every November, I find myself casually driving to my local polling location and unceremoniously casting my vote for the candidate I believe is most qualified. I don’t face jail time, physical violence, or other forms of intimidation that prevent me from voting.

While different groups of activists, such as the National Woman Suffrage Association and American Woman Suffrage Association, held different beliefs, their overall message was clear: women deserve equality. Despite their diverse political leanings, they fought for all women to make their voices heard: whether liberal, conservative, or somewhere in between.

Women’s suffrage was not easily won. Women fought for nearly 100 years to acquire all the rights and responsibilities of citizenship that were previously only given to white men. They faced significant opposition from Southern Democrats, who often argued that ensuring women the rights to vote under the US Constitution would be a hindrance to women’s fertility and would negatively impact men’s feelings about their masculinity

Despite countless setbacks and fierce opposition from sexists and racists, brave women like Susan B. Anthony and Alice Paul refused to back down. While the names of Susan B. Anthony and Alice Paul have gone down in the history books, equally important are the thousands of women, and men, who bravely and passionately advocated for women to have a say in the political process. Without their bravery and dedication to the cause, I would not be guaranteed the rights I have today.

No longer would women be subjected to laws they had no say in. While it was certainly a milestone worth celebrating, the passage of the 19th Amendment was just the beginning of female involvement in the American political process. 

The 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment has given me a time to reflect on how much our country has grown and changed over the last century, and how grateful I am for the brave Americans who fought tirelessly to ensure that women like me would live in a country where their voices were heard. 

When looking at how far our nation has come in only 100 years, it’s a testament to the incredible strength and tenacity of American women. Just one century ago, women were celebrating their right to have an equal say in the election process. In 2020, women not only have a seat at the table, but are now heavily involved in the political process. Women are now able to directly impact legislation that involves them.

On November 2, 1920 — the first election day in America since the passing of the 19th Amendment, millions of women exercised their newly given rights. This number has only continued to grow. In fact, in every Presidential election since 1964, the number of women voters has exceeded the number of male voters.

Not only can women vote, but they’re now able to write, propose, amend, and pass legislation. Women are now not just subject to laws written by men, but they write legislation that impacts hundreds of millions of Americans. 

As of August 2020, there are well over 100 Congresswomen in the House of Representatives alone — the largest number in American history. 26 women from across the country currently serve in the US Senate as well. Rebecca L. Felton (D-GA), the first female to occupy a seat in the United States Senate when she took office in 1922, paved the way for countless women looking to hold positions of power. This doesn’t end at the federal level. Since 1971, the number of women in state governments has more than quintupled — with over 7,300 women serving as state legislators across the country in 2020 alone.

As I reflect on the centennial celebration of the 19th Amendment, I’m astounded by just how far we’ve come. The incredible growth of women over the last century shows that we’re capable of so much when we’re free to live. In just a century, we’ve gone from fighting for our right to vote to having a female presence at nearly every level of the US Government. As I think about the future, I can’t help but be excited for what the next generation of women will accomplish. If the suffrage movement gives us any hint on what to look forward to, I fully believe that brave, principled, and passionate women will continue to fight for the change they wish to see in the world.