Women's Equality Day, celebrated each year on August 26, marks the date of the official adoption in 1920 of the 19th Amendment to the the U.S. Constitution, which stated that “the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”
The amendment was the culmination of more than 70 years of work by many warriors for democracy including Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Ida B. Wells, Alice Paul, Mary Church Terrell, Sojourner Truth, League of Women Voters founder Carrie Chapman Catt, and Florida’s own Mary McLeod Bethune, whose statue now represents our state in the U.S. Capitol.
The 19th Amendment was a great victory, but sadly, equality in voting rights remained elusive for many. In the words of historian Heather Cox Richardson, “as Black suffragists had known all too well when they found themselves caught between the drives for Black male voting and women’s suffrage [after the Civil War], Jim Crow and Juan Crow laws meant that most Black women and women of color would remain unable to vote for another 45 years.”
Early this month, Richardson wrote, "the Department of Justice filed a friend of the court brief in the case of League of Women Voters v. Secretary of State of Florida, alleging that ‘in the face of surging turnout in the 2020 election, the Florida Legislature responded by enacting provisions that impose disparate burdens on Black voters when it imposed new voting restrictions.’ A hundred years later, we are still fighting the same fights.” And the warriors of the League of Women Voters are still fighting and leading the way. Please visit our website, lwvoc.org, to learn more about the League in Orange County, Florida, and join us.
By the way, Florida was one of ten states that did not ratify the 19th Amendment in 1920. Florida legislators passed a law granting suffrage to all residents but refused to ratify the amendment until May 13, 1969, when they did so as a ceremonial gesture for the golden anniversary of the League of Women Voters.
Pictured: Poster by LWVOC member Jill Shargaa in honor of Women’s Equality Day, available for purchase to support the Florida League at lwvfl.org (see the “shop” tab).