Today is the first day of August 2020, the month in which we mark the centennial on August 26th of the Nineteenth Amendment. That is the date that U. S. Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby certified that the amendment had been ratified by the requiste number (36) of states. (The 18th is when Tennessee became #36.)There are two parts to the amendment. The first reads: "The right of citizens of the United State to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex." The second part reads: "Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation." This federal amendment did not discriminate against any particular group of women. That happened because of discriminatory state laws and practices that blocked many African American women from voting in some states. But, it is important to remember that African American women did vote in the presidential election of 1920 and in subsequent years.
Other groups, including Native Americans and immigrants of Asian descent were prohibited from voting because they were denied citizenship by Congressional legislation. In 1924, passage of the Indian Citizenship Act opened the way for Native Americans to vote. In 1943, the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act was repealed, allowing Chinese people to be naturalized. Other legislation opened the door for Chinese, Filipinos, Asian Indians, and first-generation Japanese Americans to become citizens. That progress, however, has been and is tempered by pernicious on-going efforts to curtail Americans' right to vote— stringent ID laws, purging voters from the roles, closing polling places, and on and on.
The fierce fight for the vote continues!
As I wrote in my recent book The Vote: Women's Fierce Fight, I grew up with an immigrant mother who believed that voting was a sacred duty; no doubt, a contributing factor to my abiding interest in the women's suffrage movement. In 1995, Linda and I took a cross-country road trip. As is my habit, I mapped out stops at markers, memorials, historic sites, and cemeteries having to do with women's history. Several stops were in Wyoming, where in December 1869 the Wyoming Territorial Legislature voted to enfranchise women. Here is
a photo from our stop in Cheyenne: This monumental statue of Esther Hobart Morris—woman suffrage advocate and first women justice of the peace—stood in front of the Wyoming Capitol. Dedicated in 1963, the sculptor was Avard Fairbanks. It was thrilling to drive up and see this dramatic representation of a real historic woman! Now, however, due to recent renovations of the building, the statue is located in a basement hallway in the Capitol, a dreadful fate for a stirring and rare statue of a historic woman!