WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today marks a century since women finally had a true voice in our democracy with the certification of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution.
Yet, the 19th did not end the battle for full civic participation, as states and individuals immediately began to suppress the vote for Black, Latina, Native American, and Asian American women, and communities of color as a whole. It would take another 45 years and the passage of the Voting Rights Act for more equitable access to the ballot box, although stubborn relics of oppression still exist even today.
That is why for the last 100 days NOW has been proud to share our Sisters in Suffrage campaign, which features women of color suffragists, others who faced various barriers, and those who continue to defend our democracy from ongoing voter suppression efforts such as onerous voter ID laws, purging of voter rolls and efforts to undermine mail-in ballots, which is especially dangerous in this era of COVID-19.
The vote is about far more than just casting a ballot; it is about recognizing that all people are equal and have an equal voice in our society. Indeed, that is why the vote is so threatening to those who seek to disenfranchise women and communities of color and uphold racism and patriarchy. They understand the power that comes from all citizens having a say in the future of this country.
Women’s Equality Day is also a time to recognize other ways in which we still are striving for parity. The narrowing of the gender pay gap has slowed to a near standstill in the last 10 years, especially for women of color. Equal pay legislation, access to paid sick leave, health care, a higher national minimum wage, and other critical protections for women are vitally needed, particularly during the coronavirus pandemic. We must also finally enshrine the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution. We are closer than ever and we will see victory, just as we did with the 19th Amendment 100 years ago today.
This year’s centennial may not be filled with large public gatherings, but the best way we can celebrate this milestone is to live out the dream that our sisters in suffrage fought for, we must make our voices heard at the ballot box (or at the mailbox!) this November.