One hundred years ago today, Congress passed the Nineteenth Amendment to the US Constitution and sent it to the states for ratification. It states simply: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex. Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.” This amendment was adopted by the states the following year.
In the 1872 presidential election, when Susan B. Anthony and fourteen other women cast votes outside of holding the legal rights to do so, she immediately became an icon of the Suffragette cause. Soon after, Anthony was arrested, to be put on trial the following June.
As a woman, she was forbidden by law from testifying in her own defense. She was indeed found guilty of illegal voting, but never actually paid the fine imposed by the judge.
Twelve years after uttering her famous quote about “the true repuliblic”, she helped form the National American Women’s Suffrage Association and led the group until 1900.
Anthony was the perfect activist. She traveled across America giving speeches, collecting signatures on petitions, and lobbied Congress every year on behalf of women’s rights. She died in 1906, fourteen years before women won the right to vote. Neither she nor the country she loved knew the full significance of her sacrifice.
We live in a world where women are now more likely to have a four-year college degree-moreso than men, and outpacing men in postgraduate education. While women make up 47 percent of the US labor force, women still make 83 cents for every dollar earned by men (compared with 64 cents for every man’s dollar in 1980). The gender pay gap has narrowed in recent years, but there’s still plenty of work to be done to continue to secure the rights for women everywhere.
We must fight bravely on, as Anthony would have, blazing a trail both ahead and behind.
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