The year was 2004, the election was Bush/Kerry and I was 19-years-old. It was the first major election I was of legal age to vote in. Two semesters of Government courses with a completely biased, Conservative teacher and a mandatory assembly in which I was forced to listen to Republican Congressman Steve Chabot drone on endlessly had solidified my personal political narrative. I was a loud and proud democrat; a tiny liberal minnow swimming in a conservative shark tank. My mother was thrilled. My father? Not-so-much.
I arose that morning at 6:30 am sharp (a personal best for me, at that point), and accompanied my mom to the local church where our neighborhood voted (no, the irony was not lost on me). I giddily, and meticulously, filled out my ballot and submitted it to the kindly older gentleman at the front table (this was before digital ballot machines were implemented everywhere). I collected my "I Voted!" sticker and was on my way. It was a landmark day in my life.
Despite the fact that I was like a teenage girl waiting in line for One Direction tickets in my excitement, the historical impact of the morning's events never resonated with me. When you're 19, the truth behind every-day-things sometimes doesn't seem as important as the actual task at hand. 11 years after that first fateful ballot submission, and I'm happy to say that my perspective has ballooned and I'm able to see just how incredibly lucky I was to be able to submit that ballot at all.
On this day, 95 years ago, the Nineteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution was ratified, granting women the right to vote. For 70 years, woman suffragists battled for the right(s) that we all enjoy today. Strong, brilliant women who understood the absolute need for equality and for the imbalance of power to be corrected. Today, I pay tribute to those women, and I thank them for helping to create a better world for myself, and for my daughters.
Here are just a few of the fierce women that sparked this important movement.
Sojourner Truth: Born into slavery, Truth was an American abolitionist and fierce Woman's Rights Activist. She actually ESCAPED slavery with her infant daughter in 1828. She later returned to her slaver for her son and shockingly won her case, making her the first black woman to win a court case against a white man. Her extemporaneous speech in Akron in 1848, aptly titled "Ain't I a Woman?" remains a battle cry for girl power to this day.
Carrie Chapman Catt: According to Wikipedia, "Catt served as president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association and was the founder of the League of Women Voters and the International Alliance of Women." She also led an army of women to try and persuade congress to give women the vote. Her life before and after the suffrage movement is one that will give all you slackers serious inferiority complexes.
Ida B. Wells: Wells was a journalist, a newspaper editor, suffragist, sociologist and an active member of the Civil Rights Movement. She used her journalistic prowess to document lynching and pointed out that it was used as a punishment for blacks, rather than a deterrent for crime. She also spearheaded several women's rights organizations, and documented the suffrage movement. She is an inspiration.
Lydia Chapin Taft: Taft was the first woman to legally place her vote in Colonial America. What a magnificent honor to hold.
Susan B. Anthony: Put simply, the world would not be as it is today were it not for Susan B. Anthony. She presented Congress with the actual amendment that would come to be known as The Anthony Amendment, or as we call it now, the Nineteenth Amendment.
This is but a very small sample of the many, many women that changed the world. It's because of them that I get so angry when I hear women and girls claim that they are "not feminists." It's BECAUSE of these women that you are even able to make an absurd claim such as that one. It is because of these women that you are able to choose whether you get married, have kids, stay home, work, shave your legs, go to college, wear a dress, involve yourself in political debates, own property, buy a car and run for office.
Whether the movement is something you want to claim as your own or not, every woman owes it to themselves and their sisters to live their lives the way these warriors envisioned it. With conviction and strength, and without any sort of "submissive" undertones. You are worth so much more than that.
Thank you to the suffragists for fighting so that I may live (somewhat) equally among men. Your courage and sacrifice will not soon be forgotten.
Below is a list of all of the known participants in the American Suffragist Movement. May they rest peacefully in the knowledge that their fight was not in vain.
Jane Addams (1860–1935) - social activist, president Women's International League for Peace and Freedom
Naomi Anderson (b. 1863) - black suffragist, temperance advocate
Nina E. Allender (1873–1957)- speaker, organizer and cartoonist.
Ida B. Wells-Barnett (1862–1931) - journalist, activist
Bertha Hirsch Baruch - writer, president of the Los Angeles Suffrage Association
Alice Stone Blackwell (1857–1950) - journalist, activist
Amelia Bloomer (1818–1894) - women's rights and temperance advocate. Her name was associated with women's clothing reform style known as bloomers
Lucy Gwynne Branham (1892–1966) - professor, organizer, lobbyist, active in the National Women's Party and its Silent Sentinels, daughter of suffragette Lucy Fisher Gwynne Branham
Sophonisba Breckinridge (1866–1948) - activist, Progressive Era social reformer, social scientist and innovator in higher education
Olympia Brown (1835–1926) - activist, first woman to graduate from a theological school, as well as becoming the first full-time ordained minister
Emma Bugbee (1888–1981) - journalist
Frances Jennings Casement (1840–1928) - voting advocate, married General John S. Casement who lobbied for voting rights for women
Carrie Chapman Catt (1859–1947) - president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, founder of the League of Women Voters and the International Alliance of Women, campaigned for the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution
Paulina Kellogg Wright Davis (1813 –1876) - a founder, New England Woman Suffrage Association, active with the National Woman Suffrage Association, co-arranged and presided at the first National Women's Rights Convention
Rheta Childe Dorr (1868–1948) - American journalist, suffragist newspaper editor, writer, and political activist
Frederick Douglass (1818–1895) - African-American social reformer, orator, writer, statesman
Anne Dallas Dudley (1876–1955) - suffrage activist, campaigned for the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution
Abigail Scott Duniway (1834–1915) - women's rights advocate, editor, writer
Max Eastman (1883–1969) - writer, philosopher, poet, prominent political activist
Helga Estby (1860–1942) - Norwegian immigrant, noted for her walk across the United States during 1896 to save her family farm
Janet Ayer Fairbank (1878–1951) - author and champion of progressive causes
Clara S. Foltz (1849–1934) - lawyer, sister of U.S. Senator Samuel M. Shortridge
Matilda Joslyn Gage (1826–1898) - activist, freethinker, author
Sarah Grimke (1792–1873) - abolitionist, writer
Eliza Caroline "Lida" Calvert Obenchain (pen name Eliza Calvert Hall) (1856–1935) - author, women's rights advocate
Ida Husted Harper (1851–1931) - organizer, major writer and historian of U.S. suffrage movement
Florence Jaffray Harriman (1870–1967) - social reformer, organiser and diplomat
Sallie Davis Hayden (1842-1907) - one of the founders of the suffrage movement in Arizona
Josephine K. Henry (1846–1928) - Progressive Era women's rights leader, social reformer and writer
Katharine Houghton Hepburn (1878–1951) - social reformer
Elsie Hill (1883-1970) - activist
Helena Hill (1875-1958) - activist, geologist
Julia Ward Howe (1819–1910) - prominent abolitionist, social activist and poet
Emily Howland (1827 – 1929) - philanthropist, educator
Josephine Brawley Hughes (1839-1926) - Established the Arizona Suffrage Association in 1891
Ada James (1876–1952) - social worker and reformer
Izetta Jewel (1883–1978) - stage actress, women's rights activist, politician and the first woman to address a major American political party convention
Edna Buckman Kearns (1882–1934) - National Woman's Party campaigner, known for her horse-drawn suffrage campaign wagon (now in the collection of New York State Museum)
Helen Keller (1880–1968) - Author and political activist
Abby Kelley (1811–1887) - abolitionist, radical social reformer, fundraiser, lecturer and committee organizer for American Anti-Slavery Society
Caroline Burnham Kilgore (1838-1909) - the first woman to be admitted to the bar in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
Daisy Elizabeth Adams Lampkin (1883–1965) - civil rights activist, organization executive, and community practitioner
Dora Lewis (born 1862) - in 1913 she became an executive member of the National Women's Party, in 1918 she became their chairwoman of finance, and in 1919 she became their national treasurer; in 1920 she headed their ratification committee
Mary Livermore (1820–1905) - journalist and advocate of women's rights
Florence Luscomb (1887–1985) - architect and prominent leader of Massachusetts suffragists
Ellis Meredith (1865–1955) - journalist
Jane Hungerford Milbank (1871–1931) - author and poet
Harriet May Mills (1857–1936) - prominent civil rights leader, played a major role in women's rights movement
Virginia Minor (1824–1894) - co-founder, president, Woman's Suffrage Association of Missouri, she unsuccessfully argued in Minor v. Happersett (1874 Supreme Court case) that the Fourteenth Amendment gave women the right to vote.
Esther Hobart Morris (1814–1902) - first female Justice of the Peace in the United States
Lucretia Mott (1793–1880) - Quaker, abolitionist, a women's rights activist, and a social reformer
Alice Paul (1885–1977) - Leader, main strategist, and inspiration for the 1910s Women's Voting Rights Movement for the 19th Amendment. Founder National Women's Party, initiator of the Silent Sentinels and Woman Suffrage Parade of 1913, author of the Equal Rights Amendment.
Helen Pitts (1838–1903) - active in women's rights movement and co-edited The Alpha
Anita Pollitzer (1894–1975) - photographer, served as National Chairman in the National Woman's Party
Florence Kenyon Hayden Rector (1882–1973) - first licensed female architect in the state of Ohio and the only female architect practicing in central Ohio between 1900 and 1930
Margaret Sanger (1879–1966) - birth control activist, sex educator, nurse, established Planned Parenthood Federation of America
Julia Sears (1840–1929) - pioneering academic and first woman in the U.S. to head a public college, now Minnesota State University
May Wright Sewall (1844-1920) - chairperson of the National Woman's Suffrage Association's executive committee from 1882 to 1890
Anna Howard Shaw (1847–1919) - president of National Women's Suffrage Association from 1904 to 1915
Mary Shaw (1854–1929) - early feminist, playwright and actress
May Gorslin Preston Slosson (1858–1943) - educator and first woman to obtain a doctoral degree in Philosophy in the United States
Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815–1902) - initiator of the Seneca Falls Convention, author of the Declaration of Sentiments, co-founder National Women's Suffrage Association, major pioneer of women's rights in America
Lucy Stone (1818–1893) - prominent orator, abolitionist, and a vocal advocate and organizer promoting rights for women
Lydia Taft (1712–1778) - first woman known to legally vote in colonial America
Grace Gallatin Seton Thompson (1872-1959) - American author
Dorothy Thompson (1893–1961) - Buffalo and New York activist, later journalist and radio broadcaster
Harriet Tubman (1822–1913) - African-American abolitionist, humanitarian and Union spy during the American Civil War
Mina Van Winkle (1875–1932) - crusading social worker, groundbreaking police lieutenant and national leader in the protection of girls and other women during the law enforcement and judicial process
Sarah E. Wall (1825–1907) - organizer of an anti-tax protest that defended a woman's right not to pay taxation without representation
Rosa Welt-Straus (1856–1938) - feminist, born in Austria, first Austrian woman to earn a medical degree, first female eye doctor in Europe
Ruza Wenclawska (died 1977) - factory inspector and trade union organizer
Victoria Woodhull (1838–1927) - leader of woman's suffrage movement, first female candidate for President of the United States, first woman to start a weekly newspaper, activist for women's rights and labor reforms, advocate of free love