The Fight for the Right to Vote

One hundred years ago on this day, August 18, 1920, the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution granted American women the right to vote with three fourths of the states ratifying the amendment. Some say women were given the right to vote, but from all I’ve seen and researched, women’s suffrage was a hard fought battle. Nothing given in that.

Granted … Achieved, maybe … But not given.

And just because a law is written, that does not mean it will be applied. After the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified in 1920 although some Black women voted in elections and held political offices, many States implemented their own methods to keep them from voting. Many were told they had to pay a poll tax, or there was some other new kind of rule that prevented them from voting.

It took over 60 years for the remaining states to ratify the 19th Amendment after it passed in 1920. Mississippi was the last to do so on March 22, 1984, even though the Voting Rights Act which passed on August 6, 1965 granted full suffrage.

In 1848 the movement for women’s rights-not just the right to vote-launched on a national level with the Seneca Falls Convention organized by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott. Following the convention, Susan B. Anthony joined the fight. In the 1900s the list included Harriott Stanton Blatch, Alice Paul, Lucy Burns, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Carrie Catt, and many many more.

Through the years many brave women sacrificed much to ensure women today can take part in the democratic process and vote. It was a hard-fought win. One, in truth, I am not really sure I could have fought to the degree these Suffragists fought.

I’m not sure I would have the courage to be one of the silent sentinels who protested through all kinds of weather, knowing they faced ridicule, verbal and physical abuse, arrest for peacefully protesting, fines and imprisonment in Occoquan Workhouse, some women for up to seven months.

While in Occoquan, I would not want my arms chained over my head, eat a meal which typically consisted of wormy bread, raw salt pork, and watered down soup which had worms floating in it.

Nor would I want to be force-fed a raw egg concoction through a tube pushed down my throat or nose during hunger strikes.

While there is much to admire, as with most things when you dig deep enough, cracks appear. Women’s Suffrage is no exception.

There was infighting and divisions as is to be expected with any group, but what shook me from my naive impression of a grand movement is the fact concessions were made to advance the cause leaving some behind.

It wasn’t all Mrs. Banks in Mary Poppins singing Sister Suffragrette, that’s for sure.

Black suffragists were sidelined from the mainstream suffrage movement by its leaders who feared alienating white women, and losing support in the South.

During the spectacular 1913 women’s suffrage parade in Washington, D.C, the organizers ordered Black participants to march at the end of the parade, while other participants marched under their state banner.

Refusing to be separated from her sister Illinoisans, and pushed to the back of the parade, Ida B. Wells-Barnett marched under her home state of Illinois’ banner that day. She told the organizers, “Either I go with you or not at all. I am not taking this stand because I personally wish for recognition. I am doing it for the future benefit of my whole race.”

By the summer of 1920, thirty-five states ratified the amendment. However, one more state was still needed for ratification.

The Tennessee legislature gathered to vote. With the vote tied at forty-eight, the outcome rested on twenty-four-year-old Harry Burn, the state’s youngest representative.

Shortly before voting to break the tie began, Mr. Burn received word from his mother. She asked him to be a good boy and vote for suffrage.

Burn who previously voted against, changed his vote and voted for. The final tally that day was 49 to 47.

With that, the Nineteenth Amendment passed and was ratified.

On November 2 of that same year, more than eight million women across the U.S. voted in elections for the first time.

This November 3rd women across the United States of America are among those who have the right, and dare I say obligation, to vote.

As we exercise our right to vote, let’s not take lightly the valiant fight generations of women who went before us fought to make sure our voices are heard.

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Stop imitating the ideals and opinions of the culture around you, but be inwardly transformed by the Holy Spirit through a total reformation of how you think. This will empower you to discern God’s will as you live a beautiful life, satisfying and perfect in his eyes. Romans 12:2 (TPT)

You can find my August Inspire a Fire post here. Please stop by and read it.

I wish you well.


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