March is Women’s History Month and that certainly is something to celebrate. So many important women get left out of history too often, and we should recognize that crucial contributions that women have made over the years. This year is the centennial celebration of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, or when women earned the right to vote. When we celebrate this historic achievement, however, we must not forget that only a fraction of women received the right to vote.
Native American women helped ratify the 19th Amendment, but never got to reap the benefits until 1924, when Native Americans were granted citizenship through the Indian Citizenship Act. We mustn’t forget that the women who have been here for generations and centuries longer than the white Suffragettes who we remember as a part of women’s history should not be taken lightly. In fact, even with the Indian Citizenship Act, most states barred Native American women from partaking in elections until 1948.
In 1882, the Chinese Exclusion Act was passed, a racist and xenophobic piece of legislature that the United States doesn’t talk about often enough. Before that act, however, in 1875 all Chinese women were barred from entering the United States. While these acts were meant to only last ten years (which still isn’t an excuse for such racist rhetoric), they did not get repealed until 1943 with the Magnuson Act, which allowed Chinese immigration into the states and gave those residing in the States the ability to become citizens. Tldr; Chinese women couldn’t vote until 1943.
Japanese women didn’t receive the right to vote until the 1950s, 30 years after the 19th Amendment. The history of Asian exclusion in America is unfortunately extensive, but it was with the McCarran–Walter Act of 1952 that Asian Americans received extensive rights in regards to citizenship, immigration, and voting.
What about black women? With the civil rights movement taking places in the 50s and 60s, black women did not receive a right to vote until the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which prohibited racial discrimination when it came to voting. The voter turnout from African Americans greatly increased as a direct result of this act, but it is important to remember that racially-charged voter suppression is still active to this day.
1920 also isn’t an accurate date in regards to women’s right to vote because Mississippi, the last state to ratify the 19th Amendment, did not do so until 1984! 64 years later!
In conclusion, this Women’s History Month, do celebrate the 100th anniversary that is the historic achievement of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, but do not forget that the amendment only really applied to white women, and the right to vote for all women took many decades to truly happen. Even today, women of color are subject to voter suppression as communities of color do not receive the same access to the polls as majority-white communities do. Trans women also can have a hard time voting with photo ID laws in certain states (tens of thousands of trans folks could face substantial bariers to voting with strict laws like these). While we are incredibly grateful to all of the women who dedicated their lives to the fight for gender equality, it is important to remember the fight is not over so long as we keep our feminism intersectional, as we should. This Women’s History month, remember all women.