The History of Women's Voting Rights, Statistics and Why Voting Matters

The Women’s Rights movement was one of the most important movements in the United States. It changed the course of history, adding a new demographic to the voting system. In 1920, the 19th Amendment was added to the Constitution, giving women the right to vote.  

However, this was not an easy path to get to where we are today- the ability to vote and to run for the highest office in the land. The Suffragette Movement marked the beginning of the progressive era from 1890 to 1920.

1890 saw a large rise in the American consumer society, which was essentially the second industrial revolution. These “make your lives easier” products were targeted towards women who were working at home. Women saw that if they are being targeted as consumers, then they should be able to get a say in the chang. This led to them using their buying power as leverage.

The National American Woman Suffrage Association was also founded that year with Cady Stanton serving as the organization's first president. The ‘suffragist’ approached the idea that women deserved the right to vote because men were given different standards and privileges, rather than being seen as “created equal.”

Photo courtesy of Liberty’s Blog

 

The rising economy created an opening in the workforce for women. Middle-class white women moved away from childcare and the home towards office jobs like secretaries and telephone operators. These jobs gave women a sense of independence and personality which did not exist when women were only at home.

It was the early 20th century and the fight for birth control that really pushed women to the front of free speech and advocating for social issues. At the turn of the 20th century women who were joining the movement had been college educated and therefore came to the fight for women’s rights with more radical approaches.

Alice Paul was the face of the movement during the early 20th century. Paul studied in England and was jailed three times for suffragette demonstrations in public. After coming back to the US to continue her education, she continued to organize demonstrations for women’s voting rights. She and several other women chained themselves to the White House fence in protest. Paul was arrested three more times before the ratification of the 19th amendment was done in 1920, even going on a hunger strike during her seven month imprisonment period.

Photo courtesy of Library of Congress

Photo courtesy of Library of Congress

So that’s how we got here, and why does that matter?

Well it’s 2018 and still not everyone votes. Especially women, despite the fact that we now have a say in our politicians and who gets to be in charge of a lot of the very big decisions that affect our lives. That’s amazing, isn’t it?

The problem is that not everyone is voting.

According the the United Census Bureau, only 66% of American women were registered to vote and only 58% of that 66% actually went out and voted. Think about it, these women 200 years ago didn’t get imprisoned, protested, fought tooth and nail, chained themselves to the white house fence, were probably outcasts in society and starved themselves in jail for only a little over half of the female population to go vote.

These women fought for our right to vote so we can have a say in the important decisions that control our lives, like reproductive rights, maternity leave, public health, equal pay and equal access to education.

The 19th amendment hasn’t been around for even 100 years yet, that ink on that paper is still not dry and yet, we are complacent. We can’t take this right for granted because there is a good amount of women alive today that were born without that right.

We are in a day and age where registering to vote takes less time “than making a cup of coffee,” according to a video that Snapchat released on National Voter Registration Day. Then why aren’t we voting? Not being politically involved or informed is a big part, but we live in information age, this information is all around us. “My vote won’t matter.” Okay that meantality lead to 46% of the women population not voting. So no, that’s false.

More women need to go out and vote, to further close the inequality gap and so we don’t lose the rights we already have when we’re not paying attention.

Be informed. Read the news, NYT has a very nice and short “Morning Briefing” that you can recieve in your email at 6 a.m. about what’s going on in the news that day. It takes about 10 minutes to read.

Register to vote. The last day to register in Virginia is October 15th:

Register here: https://www.elections.virginia.gov/citizen-portal/index.html

Register on Mason’s campus here: http://masonvotes.gmu.edu/a-quick-guide-to-voting-as-a-mason-student/

 

Show up to the polls, collegiettes.  Make these women who fought their entire lives for this proud.