Women’s Equality Day celebrates the passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution which guarantees all American women the right to vote 100 years ago. The Amendment changed Federal law and the face of the American electorate forever. Women won legal recognition as equal citizens under the 19th Amendment. While women in some states could already vote before 1920, women in some states—particularly those of color—were blocked from voting after ratification.
There was a strong suffrage movement in many black communities, but black women, particularly in the South, were barred from voting for decades after 1920. It wasn’t until passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965, that their rights were finally upheld.
Additionally, the voting rights of Native American women were not recognized until 1924. For Chinese American women, it was 1943, and for Japanese and other Asian American women it was 1952.
Women’s Equality Day gives us an opportunity to reflect on the many benefits of true equality and the role of women in our public life. Women in public service and government have long served this nation by working to clear barriers, enforce laws, implement new ideas, and change people’s attitudes.
Today we are reminded we all have the opportunity—and the responsibility—to create a society that gives both men and women equal voice.