On August 26, 1920, U.S. Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby certified the 19th Amendment, and women throughout the United States achieved the right to vote. The Amendment turned 100 years old this August, and allowed us an opportunity to reflect on the difficulties and struggles overcome to arrive at where we are today. The amendment reads, “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. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.” Two basic sentences that have had such a great impact on so many.
Eleven states, including Pennsylvania and Ohio, all voted to ratify the 19th Amendment by July 1919. At least thirty-six states needed to vote in favor of the Amendment for it to become law. Ohio voted and ratified the Amendment on June 16, 1919, and had always been a leader in the women’s suffrage movement. As early as 1850, the Ohio Women’s Convention met to discuss women’s rights. It was the first women’s rights convention outside of New York State and the first statewide women’s rights convention.
Pennsylvania ratified the amendment shortly thereafter on June 24, 1919. Pennsylvania also was an early leader in the women’s suffrage movement, with Pennsylvanians Angelina and Sarah Grimke writing and speaking on women’s equality as early as 1838. In 1871, Pennsylvanian Carrie Burnham attempted to vote and was denied the ability to do so. She took her case to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, arguing that voting was a right of citizenship. She lost the case and the Pennsylvania constitution was subsequently amended to limit voting rights to “male citizens.”
During 1919 and 1920, six states voted against ratifying the Amendment, leaving its ratification in doubt, as most states remaining were high anti-suffrage states. However, in August 1920, Tennessee provided the deciding 36th state ratification of the Amendment, and over 8 million women across the United States voted in the November 1920 elections for the first time. Strangely enough, it took over 60 years for the remaining 12 states to ratify the 19th Amendment, with Mississippi being the last to do so in March 1984.
On one hand, it is great to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment and its importance to women achieving equality in this country. On the other hand, it is shocking and disgusting. It took 144 years – from the Declaration of Independence adopted in July 1776 to August 1920, for half of the population to gain the legal right to vote. Even then, 12 states voted to deny the basic right of voting equality to women. With that thought, we are committed to taking actions to create an equal workplace, through creating workplace teams that have gender balance, having higher expectations for what equality looks like, celebrating women’s successes, having performance and leadership equality, and by mentoring and advocating for women colleagues. We started this year in March by celebrating International Women’s Day, a focus on championing women of all backgrounds who dare to innovate, lead and uplift others towards a more equal and inclusive work place. That was just the beginning. We challenge everyone to consider doing your part in creating an equal and inclusive workplace. What will you do?
Sources for all relevant dates, data and figures all obtained from U.S. National Park Service articles on the 19th Amendment. For further reading on the 19th Amendment and your state, go to www.nps.gov.
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