Written by guest writer, Jo Lorenz
Today - Wednesday, August 26 - marks the 100 year anniversary of ‘Women’s Equality Day’, an annual celebration in the US to commemorate the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution which allowed women to vote.
Now, while this Amendment was of course a wonderful step in the right direction - and thus deserving of our kudos - we *also* need to acknowledge the truth of this day. This Amendment did not guarantee ALL women the right to vote. It only guaranteed privileged white women the right to vote.
So while we celebrate this day today - and the steps it took down the right path - we also need to acknowledge the nuance and accordingly aspire to a future of intersectionality. To a future of a greater understanding of the bigger picture.
Women stand at a women's suffrage information booth encouraging people to vote "yes" for women's voting rights in New York City in 1914.
A quick history lesson . . .
- “Literacy” tests robbed Black people, immigrants, as well as poor or less educated folks - both men and women - of their vote in the South until 1965, and in the rest of the country until 1970 (i.e. some 50 years after the Amendment passed)
- In some states, Native American women were not allowed to vote until 1948
- Asian Americans also couldn’t vote until the early 1950s, as they were denied citizenship.
These are just a few of the areas that prevented ALL women from the right to vote under the 19th Amendment. In essence, it wasn’t actually until 1965 - when the Voting Rights Act passed, which is considered one of the most far-reaching pieces of civil rights legislation in US history - that universal suffrage was actually guaranteed for all women.
So are we hating on today? No - not at all! We stand with our American sisters to celebrate this anniversary and pay tribute to the trailblazers who moved the dial closer to equality for all women and girls.
However, as we hold our glass high for the toast, we also want to wholeheartedly acknowledge and pay tribute to the women who were left behind. We want to acknowledge and pay tribute to the civil rights movement. We want to acknowledge and pay tribute to the peaceful participants in the Selma to Montgomery march, which truly paved the way for unilateral voting rights. And we want to acknowledge and show gratitude to the strong female figures in our lives, in the hopes that you can also do the same. Take the time to thank the women in your life and recognise the many ways that they empower you!
And last, but not least, we want to acknowledge our own journey in understanding the grey area - in intersectionality - in the fight for ALL people. Because without recognising nuance and accepting our role within complex systems, we can never truly move forward.
So with that being said: Happy Women’s Equality Day! May it be a day to inspire us all to do more, to be more, to serve as a reminder of how far we’ve come, yet also, how far we yet have to go.
Read more from Jo on her blog Conscious Citizen