Women all over the United States should be celebrating today. In fact, August 18th should be a National Holiday. On August 18, 1920 the Tennessee legislature became the 35th state to ratify the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution, giving women the right to vote.
Several things surprise me about this. First, the vote was close. The amendment needed to be ratified by 35 states to take effect. The vote in the Tennessee House was tied in the first two rounds. On the third vote, a young legislator changed his vote because his mother sent him a letter telling him it was the right thing to do. Of course it was!
Which brings me to my second surprise: why was this ever an issue? It is hard to believe that women did not have the right to vote for the first 140-plus years of the existence of this country.
My third surprise? That this right was granted in 1920. I thought it had been many decades before that. This means that women did not have the right to vote in elections in the early lifetime of some grandmothers and mothers of some readers of this blog.
The whole women’s suffrage movement began with a group of fearless women in Seneca Falls, New York in 1848. They had the radical belief that women were equal to men. Ya think?! We take that for granted now, at least most of us do, but the common belief prior to that era was that women were somehow lesser beings than men.
I think I’m just beginning to realize why my mother took Election Day so seriously during her lifetime. She was a strong woman privately, but always publicly deferred to Dad’s decisions, as was the norm in her generation. But in spirit and in behind-the-scenes actions and words, she was very equal. She just didn’t let anyone know it out loud. Maybe I sensed her strength and that feeling influenced me into adulthood. My boss is female and so is her boss. I am completely comfortable with that. It never occurred to me to feel any other way.
Another election season is upon us in most of the country. These are primarily local elections but maybe they are the most important. Exercise your right to vote; especially if you are a woman. And Happy Anniversary!