Suffrage

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By: 
Michelle Phillips

I will be the first to admit that as a young girl, I really didn’t understand women’s suffrage very well. I never thought about it much, honestly, but I remember my great grandmother talking about the elation women felt when they were given the right to vote. So all my life the importance of women voting has stuck with me. 

Grandma Clark didn’t really provide many details of the Women’s Suffrage Movement, I knew the basics, but it wasn’t until I got older and started to see the sexism that women face first hand, and not allowing women to vote is plain and simple, sexism. 

I was telling my husband, Matt, that the 100thanniversary of women’s suffrage, and his response was, “A hundred years? Is that all.” It made me realize the different impact women’s suffrage makes on girls and boys, men and women, in this country. I think men, much like my younger self, don’t really think about it too much at all. 

That is likely because white men have always had the right to vote. They have not had to face opposition from women to vote, have not had to picket the White House. They were not beaten in the street for the right to cast a ballot. Women were. 

It is well documented that the leaders of the fight were Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. But there were women of color who stood alongside white women to secure voting rights for themselves, they were mostly excluded from voting when the 19th Amendment passed on June 4, 1919, just as black men were excluded after the passing of the 15thAmendment in 1870. This was largely due to voter suppression, which included literacy tests, poll taxes and outright intimidation. 

The right to vote was often only for white, middle class and affluent women because of similar restrictions imposed by state and local election officials that poor, white women could not meet. 

Voting excluded a large part of the population then, and now, 100 years later, that exclusion is still taking place. Maybe not so overtly along gender lines, but certainly among racial and socio-economic lines. Things like voter id laws and language barriers for non-English specking citizens and reduction of polling places causing long wait times are all modern forms of voter suppression.

Suffrage, by definition is: The right to vote in political elections. By constitutional amendment, we all technically are afforded that right, but we must continue to fight for that right. We must stand up and protect the rights of all citizens to participate and vote. By denying one, we are denying all. 

The Women’s Suffrage Movement was monumental and is still a great accomplishment for women, but let’s not forget that right is fragile. Please educate yourself and get out and vote, your ancestors didn’t always have that chance.

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