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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO THE 19TH AMENDMENT

Women’s Equality Day

Today is Women’s Equality Day. It’s hard to believe that less than 100 years ago women in the United States weren’t allowed to vote.

On June 11, 1776 Congress appointed a committee of five men to draft what would become the Declaration of Independence. As John Adams, one of the five members, toiled away on the document, his wife Abigail implored him not to forget the women.

Unfortunately, Abigail was too progressive a thinker for her time. Our Founding Fathers didn’t believe women should have the same rights and privileges as men, which is why the Declaration of Independence reads, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…” It took 144 years plus 7-1/2 weeks from the date we celebrate as Independence Day until the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment on August 26, 1920 before women were granted the right to vote in this country. And even then it almost didn’t happen.

The first major women’s rights conference was held at Seneca Falls, NY in 1848. This is commonly considered the birth of the women’s suffrage movement. The Nineteenth Amendment was introduced in Congress on January 10, 1878 and was resubmitted many times over the next forty-one years until it finally received approval from both the House of Representatives and the Senate in June 1919. Along the way many women were jailed for the crime of demanding a right held by every man in the country. Most men opposed a woman’s right to vote.

Two-thirds of the states need to ratify an amendment in order for it to become law. Suffragists spent the next year lobbying states in order to get the necessary number needed for ratification. On August 24, 1920 Tennessee became the final state, ratifying the amendment by only one vote when Harry Burns was persuaded by his mother to vote for ratification. Two days later the U.S. Secretary of State signed the amendment into law.

We’ve come a long way, baby, but it never should have taken as long as it did, and unfortunately, in many areas we still have a long way to go.