Exactly 90 years ago today, women finally won the right to vote. The 19th amendment, which enshrined the right into law, was enacted after Tennessee’s legislature, after three rounds of tied-votes, came out in favor, meaning that the amendment has been agreed to by the constitutionally requisite three-quarters of states.
Of course, as is the case with all rights, suffrage wasn’t won by waiting for those in power to grant it. Without the decades of struggle that women and their male allies waged, the right would not have been won. (The women of Switzerland had to wait until 1971.) The first women’s suffrage convention, a regional affair of 240 women and men in Seneca Falls, New York, took place more than 70 years prior.
Even after the success of Seneca Falls, the future of the fight was far from certain. Could a national convention be organized, advocates wondered. They decided to try: Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Lucy Stone, Abby Kelley, Lucretia Mott, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Bronson Alcott, and William Lloyd Garrison signed a call to convene. Just two years after the regional convention, the question was answered. The first ever national convention for women’s rights was held in Worcester, Massachusetts. This time there were more than 1,000 delegates and, according to the New York Tribune, “if a larger place could have been had, many more thousands would have attended.”
Quite obviously, we’ve made progress; women occupy positions near the top of the political ladder: While we still have yet to see a female president, we did see, for the first time in 2008, a woman leading the ticket of a major political party, and both the Secretary of State and Speaker of the House of Congress are women. Women, because they fought and continue to fight, have made huge strides forward in the workplace. They have many times led union struggles and won big victories.
But there is still more to be done; the struggle is far from over. Women still earn less than 80 cents for each dollar men make on average, and also face hurdles men don’t even need to consider.
Women are still bravely leading the fight forward and they have an ally in the White House, President Barack Obama, who signed the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act almost immediately upon entering office. It is vitally important to the women’s movement to make sure then, that Obama’s hand is strengthened-something that would in turn strengthen the hand of the women’s movement-in the upcoming elections by adding to the number of allies in the Congress.
As always, the fight for women’s rights is the fight for all rights, something recognized long ago. In the Worcester convention, Sojourner Truth connected the fight against slavery to the fight for women’s equality, and the convention resolved that “the trampled women of the plantation” deserved the same rights that the women of the convention were demanding. We saw the same principle in action when millions of women and African Americans, trade unionists and others, male and female, teamed up in 2008 to ensure that Obama became president. That victory was a step forward in the fight against racism and other grave social injustices as well as against sexism.
We celebrate all the achievements women have made, and look forward to celebrating future victories.