Imperfect Progress

Please enjoy this post originally written on election day by Vice-President Lori.

Today is Election Day in the U.S. And it’s been quite a year for so many reasons. As I write this, we don’t know what will happen tonight, or even if all the votes will be counted and a winner declared. It’s definitely a strange time.

But one thing that has been somewhat overlooked this year, is the 100th year women have been allowed to vote in America.

In 1920, the 19th Amendment was ratified, and the right to vote could no longer be denied on the basis of sex. The journey to get to this point was long, arduous, and fraught with racism.

Rights for women had been discussed during the very beginnings of our nation. But of course, the constitution was originally written for the benefit of white, land-owning men. Throughout the 19th century, there was always discussion of women’s rights. But, it wasn’t until later that many of our nations most well-known suffragists began to fight in earnest.

One ardent supporter of women’s rights was Fredrick Douglass. However, the abolitionist was pushed aside for fear of further alienating the white men who would eventually have to approve the constitutional amendment to grant the vote to women.

Harris & Ewing, Washington, D.C. Women marching in national suffrage demonstration in Washington, D.C., May 9. United States Washington D.C, 1914. May 9. Photograph.

I never knew that until recently. And until I was an adult, I really only knew about a few suffragists being arrested for attempting to vote. In school, we’re shown pictures of women holding signs and standing in front of the White House. But we’re never taught the horrors those women suffered after being arrested for protesting. They were beaten, they were force-fed, and they experienced all kinds of verbal and mental abuse. And some were even forced into solitary confinement for long periods of time.

There is a dark history to the suffrage movement in the U.S. The actions taken by men to attempt to suppress women and the actions taken by the suffragists themselves to exclude women of color seem abhorrent today. Yet, the progress made by the movement was a step in the right direction.

A post I recently saw on the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment was wondering why it would be celebrated because it didn’t open the door to allow all women to vote. And honestly, I had never really considered that point. And I’ve been thinking about it since. I believe it is a completely valid point and I believe we need to acknowledge that the suffrage movement was imperfect. However, I also believe we can still celebrate the accomplishment.

As with so much in history, it’s a complicated issue. But the fact remains, it was a step in the right direction. I choose to acknowledge that not all women were granted the vote 100 years ago, but I also choose to honor the imperfect women who put us one step closer to equality for all women.

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