Where We Stand: The centennial of women winning the right to vote

Submitted by the League of Women Voters of Plumas County

One century and one day ago, half of us couldn’t vote. Women had been denied that intrinsic democratic right despite their obvious contributions to this nation since its inception.

They weren’t having it. Beginning in the 1800s women organized, petitioned, and picketed for the right to vote. Some used tactics such as silent vigils, hunger strikes and parades. Others challenged male-only voting laws in the courts. These brave women were heckled, jailed, and sometimes physically abused. Some who protested were force fed with nasogastric tubes.

In 1918, Jeannette Rankin of Montana, the first woman elected to Congress, introduced a suffrage amendment in the U.S. House of Representatives. It passed, setting up the path to approval. It took another two years but on Aug. 18, 1920, the amendment was ratified.

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Don’t make the mistake of saying women were “granted” the right to vote. “The hell they were,” says Virginia Kase, CEO of the League of Women Voters of the United States. Their hard-fought battle took more than 70 years.

Today the right to vote is as precious as it was 100 years ago. Yet too many of us ignore it. Just 55 percent of women who were eligible, cast ballots in the 2018 November midterms, only slightly better than the 51.8 percent of men who voted, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of newly released data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Those are appalling statistics. What we lose if we don’t participate is immeasurable.

We in the League of Women Voters of Plumas County are dedicated to ensuring that women and men alike have access to the polls. In our county that is as close as a box made available by U.S. Postal Service, which is issuing a commemorative stamp honoring the leadership and advocacy of the of the brave and brilliant suffragettes who fought tirelessly for women’s right to vote. As a non-partisan organization, we also provide information that helps each of us make an informed vote: candidate forums, ballot initiative information and voter guides. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, our forums for candidates seeking elected office may be virtual this year but we are committed to making these civic discussions available to the public.

As we celebrate the 19th Amendment Centennial, let us all remain open to the challenges of democracy and equal rights that face us today. Only together will we succeed in preserving these priceless privileges.

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The League of Women Voters of Plumas County is a non-partisan organization welcoming women and men, and dedicated to enhancing democratic processes and civic engagement.