Today marks the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which guarantees American women the right to vote.
Congress passed the amendment on June 4, 1919. It was ratified on Aug. 18, 1920, when Tennessee became the 36th ratifying state, and adopted on Aug. 26, 1920.
Connecticut was slated to vote on the amendment in September 1920, so when the state legislature did ratify it on Sept. 14, 1920, it was already officially part of the Constitution.
Secretary of the State Denise Merrill’s office is planning a webinar conversation today at 10:30 a.m. highlighting the importance, historical context and political implications of the ratification of the 19th Amendment.
Panelists slated to participate include Merrill and Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz. Also Elizabeth Burgess, director of collections and research at the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center; Glynda C. Carr, president of Higher Heights for America; Sarah Lubarsky, executive director of the Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame; and Ilene Frank, chief curator at the Connecticut Historical Society.
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal is scheduled to give welcoming remarks.
By 1920, the women’s suffrage movement had been calling for a constitutional amendment to guarantee women’s right to vote since the 1848 Seneca Falls convention, a watershed moment for women’s equality.
Although the 19th Amendment prohibits denying the right of citizens to vote based on sex and enfranchised 26 million voters, it failed to secure the same rights for all racial minority women.
“While giving women the right to vote has been a groundbreaking advancement in our nation’s history, there is still much more work to be done in giving women of color a seat at the table and in elevating their voices,” Merrill said Monday in a statement. “Whether being selected as the vice presidential nominee or just feeling represented in her local government, I’m hoping to see more progress for women of color moving forward.”
Last week, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden announced Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate, making Harris the first Black woman and first person of Asian descent to run on a major party’s presidential ticket.
Dr. Amanda Calhoun, an adult and child psychiatry resident physician at Yale Child Study Center, is co-vice chair of the Diversity Council of the Yale Resident Fellow Senate. Calhoun spoke at the “Rally Against Hate” in Wallingford on Saturday.
“The emphasis is important that it’s white women who got the right to vote,” she said Monday, adding that it’s important not to contribute to “historical silencing” through white-centered interpretations of history.
“When I hear that it’s 100 years since women got the right to vote, it’s sort of like a slap in the face,” she said, “because it’s inaccurate. All women didn’t have the right to vote.”
While the Civil Rights Act of 1960 limited federal obstruction of the right to vote, poll taxes, literacy tests and other rules prevented Black citizens from voting in many areas until the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Native Americans, for example, weren’t U.S. citizens in 1920 and therefore weren’t enfranchised under the 19th Amendment. (Birthright citizenship wasn’t granted to Native Americans until 1924.)
“We should be clear that we’re celebrating 100 years since white women got the right to vote,” she said. “Even today, it erases the current voter suppression that’s going on now, with the things that Black people and Latinx people and many other groups of non-white people still struggle with today to get the same voting rights.”