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Honoring the 19th Amendment for Women's Equality Day

By Satta Sarmah Hightower, Aug. 26, 2020
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Whether you vote in local or national elections, you'll likely see people from every walk of life—the young, the old, the culturally diverse, men and women alike—proudly participating in our democracy. It's hard to imagine that about a century ago, this wasn't the case. Women could only legally vote beginning in 1920, when the 19th Amendment granted them this right… but it was still another 45 years before all women, not just some, could vote.

The amendment has helped to make our society more equal, reshaped who serves in public office, and paved the way for more diverse perspectives at all levels of government. In honor of Women's Equality Day—August 26, the day the 19th Amendment was certified—here's a look back at why this amendment is so important, not just to women's history but also to American history.

How the 19th Amendment Came to Be
It was a long, hard-fought battle to grant women the right to vote. The effort began in the early 1800s as women tried several strategies to advance this cause. Suffragists, or women's voting rights advocates, staged protests, pickets, silent vigils, and even hunger strikes in an attempt to bring more equality to America. The movement became national in 1848 when the Seneca Falls Convention was held.

Activists Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott came up with the idea for the convention and organized it with the support of fellow feminists Martha C. Wright and Mary Ann McClintock. More than 300 people attended, including activist Frederick Douglass. The group rallied attendees around a "Declaration of Sentiments" that detailed the political, social, and economic rights women should be entitled to as citizens.

From there, the movement gained more prominence and intensity. Elizabeth Cady Stanton later joined with Susan B. Anthony, a pioneer in the women's rights movement, to form the National Woman Suffrage Association, petitioning Congress in 1871 to give women the right to vote. In 1913, more than 5,000 women suffragists participated in a parade down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C., to call attention to voting rights. In 1917, the National Women's Party organized a three-year-long picket at the White House.

All of these efforts, taking place over the course of 100 years, eventually led to the passage of the 19th Amendment on June 4, 1919, its ratification on August 18, 1920, and its certification on August 26, 1920.

The Impact of the 19th Amendment
"The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation."

These 39 words of the 19th Amendment have reshaped our political landscape and changed our political discourse over the last century. When the amendment was ratified in 1920, it gave 26 million women the right to vote. This has laid the groundwork for 68 million women to vote today, casting their ballots in local, state, and national elections. However, it's also important to acknowledge that even after 1920, not all women had full voting rights. African American women weren't free to exercise their right to vote until the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which outlawed anti-voting efforts that had previously made even attempting to vote a life-or-death proposition for African Americans.

Even more important than the 19th Amendment giving women the ability to vote is the fact that it's made it possible for more women to get involved in politics and serve in public office. It paved the way for women like Hattie Ophelia Caraway, the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate; Patsy Mink, the first Asian American elected to the US House of Representatives; and Shirley Chisholm, the first African American woman elected to Congress, who would later run for president. Today, you can make a convincing case that women like Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Elizabeth Warren, and Kamala Harris would likely not have gained the prominence they have in national politics if not for the fight suffragists waged in the 1800s and 1900s.
The 19th Amendment reminds us of how far we've come. The rights we enjoy today weren't just given—women fought for a century to earn them. We should be grateful for their sacrifice every time we fill out a ballot and cast our vote. 

Join us in celebrating Women’s Equality Day by using your voice this upcoming election. Register to vote today. If you’re looking for more ways to get involved, explore Easterns Give For Good account and donate to organizations that support Women’s Equality. Visit

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