Imagine this: nearly 100 years ago, women weren't allowed to vote, much less be involved in politics. Over the years, women have certainly gained more rights and footing in regards to earning a place in the political sphere, but there's still a lot of work to be done. Sunday, Aug. 26 marks Women's Equality Day, which celebrates the adoption of the
19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote in 1920. Since then, ladies have been standing up and speaking out on behalf of their rights, on election day and every day. In honor of Women's Equality Day, these women shared what the right to vote means to them. Girl power, baby.
In 1848, activists including Susan B. Anthony, Lucretia Mott, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton launched
the women's suffrage movement to fight for women's rights and demand the right to vote, organizing protests and demonstrations to bring public awareness to their mission. After a lengthy battle, Congress voted in June 1919 to approve the Susan Anthony Amendment, which would give women the right to vote. The amendment went to the states to approve, and on Aug. 18, 1920, Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the amendment, tipping it over the two-thirds threshold required to be adopted. Finally, on Aug. 26, 1920, the 19th Amendment was certified by U.S. Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby, and women were finally granted the right to vote.
Clearly this was a historic moment in women's rights, and history in general. However, it's important to remember that not all women were granted the same rights at the same time. Equal rights are still a struggle for women of color, members of the LGBTQ community, lower-income families, and non-binary women. That's why Women's Equality Day is still
so important. In honor of this day, eight women told Elite Daily what their right to vote means to them, and it'll get you fired up all over again. Some responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.
For Kate, 30, voting is key in ensuring that the United States elects leaders that truly have their best interests at heart, and want to represent every community. She says,
There are so many times where as a queer woman of color, it can feel like I’m shouting at the wind. Especially in today’s political climate, reading the news, seeing the hate and determination some people have for dividing us, restricting human rights, my fear and anxiety can feel paralyzing. But the one thing we can do is vote. I can’t stress enough how important it is that we all go and vote - as we saw in 2016, it DOES matter. We can take action and be heard by who we choose to represent us. Politicians are supposed to be civil servants, and I support those who are truly for the people, not their wallets.
Young voices are arguably some of the most impactful voices echoing across the country at the moment. The recent presidential election definitely woke a lot of young people up
to the importance of voting, and Allie, 24, can attest to that, and how it took not voting to get her to realize what her right to vote really means. "Voting is important to me now because, well, it WASN’T always important to me," she says. She continues, Growing up, and even in my college years, I was never really interested in politics, and to be quite frank, I was ignorant about it all. I believed politics didn’t affect me, that my vote didn’t really matter, and it just seemed like something way over my head. I was working overseas during the 2016 election, and because I was “too busy” with my travels, I hadn’t bothered to send in an absentee ballot or anything like that. But I’ll never forget the way I felt waking up in Portugal on Nov. 9, 2016. I was unbelievably disappointed in myself that it took something as wild as Donald Trump ascending to the presidency to give me a reality check about how important politics REALLY is, to EVERYBODY. Now, voting in ALL elections is important to me because I’m finally paying attention to what’s really going on in our country, and I want to have a say in it. I probably still don’t know everything I should know, but I want to learn, I want to have a role in it, and I want to see change happen.
For Lilly, 31, voting represents the opportunity for women to stand up for rights that matter to them. The current political climate is certainly a scary time for women's reproductive rights, and that's why she thinks taking your voice to the polls is key in making sure we still have the right to govern our bodies.
As a woman, my body is always in danger of being legislated against my will. It's easy to get overwhelmed and feel like my voice won't matter. If I cave to that sort of negativity, I lose the right to feel outrage at the situation. Voting is the only way we have to keep our civil servants accountable, to keep them from making decisions about my body, and I will exercise that hard-won right every chance I get.
The fight for equal rights is still an ongoing struggle, but it's important to recognize all the change that's been made so far thanks to the brave women throughout history. Mary Catherine, 31, says she votes in order to honor the women who helped spearhead all these landmarks in women's history. She says,
The way I see it, as citizens, we have a few obligations that we must do in order to take part in our American society: pay taxes, serve jury duty and vote. Women before us have fought for the right to do all of these things, and it's far too easy to take these rights for granted. When I vote, I remember the suffragettes for fought for us, my grandparents who immigrated here to give our family more opportunity, and the strength of my own voice to shape my community and our society.
Lizzie, 29, keeps it short and sweet. For her, the right to vote is about being guaranteed a seat at the table and make her voice heard — and do what she can to make a change. She says.
The short answer: the right to vote means my freedom to participate, my ability to be a part of the conversation, the only guarantee I have to control one small aspect of the overall political and policy arena.
In the 21st century, voting is a right that can sometimes be easy to take for granted. Thankfully, you can come back and re-commit to the ballot box anytime. Taylor, 30, is proof of that. She says,
I'm ashamed to admit this, but I haven't always taken advantage of my right to vote. It's easy to say 'It doesn't really make a difference' or 'I'm too busy to make it to the polls,' but in a world where so little seems certain, we need to take action where we can, and the ability to vote for elected officials gives us that opportunity. Will one individual vote make or break an election? Probably not (although, with the razor-thin margins we've been seeing in recent elections, I wouldn't discount the possibility!). But for me, the chance to make my voice heard gives me hope for the future, and that's WELL worth a wait in the ballot-box line.
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey
While the right to vote is important no matter who you are, there are some people for who it might hold extra significance. There was a time in history where the idea of a women being elected to a high political office was laughable, and that's why Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey is so appreciative of all the progress that's been made. She says,
On this Women's Equality Day, I am thinking about all those brave women nearly a century ago who marched and advocated and secured basic rights for all of us. Their journey was hard, and their odds were steep, but thanks to their achievements generations of women have been inspired to shatter glass ceilings and break barriers – from sitting on the Supreme Court, to leading some of the world's largest companies, exploring the stars, and serving in elected office. As we face our own challenges and obstacles in this era, we need to draw strength from their example and double down in our efforts to extend true equality to all women, particularly women of color. I was proud to work on the update to our equal pay law in Massachusetts, putting money back into women's pockets, but discriminatory pay gaps are still with us. We need to elect more women to office, we need to pass more laws ensuring equality, and when we encounter opposition, we need to remember the advice of the late, great Aretha Franklin: 'It’s the rough side of the mountain that’s the easiest to climb; the smooth side doesn’t have anything for you to hang on to.'
Arizona Attorney General Candidate January Contreras
For attorney general hopeful January Contreras, who is running in Arizona, the thought of running for office decades ago wouldn't have been possible, especially as a Mexican-American woman. On Women's Equality Day, Contreras looks at the women before her who helped pave the way for women of color to stand up and realize that they're voices are just as, if not more, important and need to be showcased in the political sphere. She says,
Today, women across the country are standing up for the values and rights that make our nation stronger. Equal pay, access to health care and education, workplaces free of double standards and harassment, affordable childcare and college tuition, and so much more impact all of us, and women are championing these priorities all the way to the ballot box. The power that women have built – including making it possible for a Mexican-American woman to run for Attorney General to fight for these priorities - wouldn't be possible without the work of our foremother suffragists. The fight for equal rights and representation lives on in all of us, and the girls and young women to follow. I honor the women who sacrificed personally and professionally to gain women the right to vote, and I am proud to be one of many women picking up their torch and continue forward with my voice and my vote.
On this Women's Equality Day, we honor the brave women who have helped make equal opportunities a reality for us. However, there's still work to be done, and let's hope we never stop fighting for justice.
And if nothing else: vote.
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