We Can’t Celebrate the Women’s Suffrage Centennial This Year

 

The Women’s Suffrage Movement was a landmark sociopolitical movement beginning in the mid-19th century and continuing into the 20th. It was seen as a radical notion of the time: the idea that women could and should participate in the political process and have any other concerns outside that of a hommaking environment. Through perseverance, these women were eventually able to taste the fruits of their labor. August 18th, 2020 will officially mark the Centennial of the day congress ratified the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote. Well… some women. As with many early progressive political movements, the Women’s Suffrage Movement had its problematic aspects. Before you break out the pink hats and confetti in celebration of this landmark anniversary, consider the following. 

Not every woman was guaranteed the right to vote with the passing of the 19th amendment. Indigeonous peoples were not given the right to vote and to U.S. Citizenship until 1924 (even though the indigeonous population in America at the time was estimated to be over 220,000) with the passing of the Indian Citizenship Act, partially put into place in recognition of the thousands of Indigeonous People who served in World War 1. Additionally, Chinese immigrants didn’t gain the vote until 1943, and though they were a marginally smaller group than indigeonous Americans at only around 78,000 in 1940, were still a large group that could sway elections. For a long time, these groups were not given the right to vote because they weren’t considered citizens, and to some, weren’t even considered to be persons. The discrimination didn’t end there, however. It wasn’t until later that the American government passed the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which (officially) federally enforced the voting rights granted to American citizens through the fourteenth and fifteenth amendments. This act was to ensure the right to vote for all racial minorities, especially in the heavily segregated deep South, where disenfranchisement (stripping people of their right to vote, or purposely attempting to deter them from voting) was commonplace. As we know, however, just because something is illegal, doesn’t mean it doesn’t still exist. Disenfranchisement continues to be a large issue in our country’s democratic process, from North Dakota barring indigeonous vote to Georgia’s voter purges. We cannot officially celebrate voter equality until issues of vote suppression are addressed and eradicated. 

While the Women’s Suffrage Centennial pays great homage to our feminist foremothers and their great achievements, I personally do not believe we can or should celebrate just yet. Intersectionality is a vital pillar of the modern equality movement, and we, as activists, need to do our best to uphold its ideals. We cannot be free until we are all free and equal. And so, I’ll personally hold off on celebrating until 2065 (at least), and I hope you will consider doing the same.