The League of Women Voters Founder Carrie Chapman Catt stated: “The vote is the emblem of your equality, women of America, the guarantee of your liberty.”
The effort began in the 1800s, pre-Civil War. The passage of the 19th Amendment was in 1920, post-World War I. It had cost millions of dollars and the lives of thousands of women. The right to vote took over seven decades. The money had to be donated mostly by women. They endured horrific hardships, terrible abuses, were imprisoned and publicly ridiculed. In other words, completely disenfranchised with no voice.
The great sacrifices and successes of women like Carrie Chapman Catt, Sojourner Truth, Ida B. Wells, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony and thousands of others are the reason we can celebrate the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage in the United States this year.
This was not an easy journey, and with this milestone, we can reflect and commemorate the steps, persistence and determination of more than 72 years to the passage of the 19th Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America. Finally, we had a voice.
The organized fight for women’s equality began in 1848 in New York, at the Seneca Falls Convention, where suffragists demanded the right for women to vote. Approximately 300 individuals attended the convention, which was met with support and skepticism from the press across the nation. The hard fight continued for 72 long years, until the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate approved women’s right to vote in 1920. Along the way, in 1869, Susan B. Anthony and Cady Stanton formed the National Women’s Suffrage Association to advocate for voting rights. The territory of Wyoming was the first to give women voting power in 1869, and subsequently as a state in 1890. In 1911, California became the sixth state to grant women the right to vote.
Additionally, Alice Paul and Lucy Burns formed the Congressional Union for Women Suffrage, with a focus on lobbying for a constitutional amendment for the right to vote in 1913. The 19th Amendment, granting women the right to vote in all states, was officially signed into law on Aug. 26, 1920. These women came together from diverse backgrounds, different religions, women of color, some women were educated and some were not, the poor and the wealthy. They all gave everything to one incredible journey — persevering to achieve their objectives. The women’s suffrage movement succeeded and America is a better place because of them.
As we celebrate this milestone in American women’s history, I reflect on the July 4, 2011, SCV parade. It was the year of the 100th anniversary of the women’s right to vote in California. I was joined by more than 100 women from local organizations, including Zonta International, Soroptimists of the Greater Santa Clarita Valley, Soroptimist International of Valencia, our local Girl Scout troops and more. As we proudly marched the more than 2-mile parade route in extreme heat, we each had a hand in carrying a massive 25-foot American flag to commemorate women’s hard-won right to vote and the 100th anniversary of the California suffrage movement.
As we mark 100 years since the success of this tremendous effort for equal voting rights, I ask each of us to remember these women who tirelessly worked to achieve this important milestone. The landmark victory was a very long-fought battle, which was won after decades of struggle, agitation, hardship and sacrifice. But, along with the legacy that remains, it is an inspiration to others to continue to create a greatness throughout our nation.
In closing, I want to thank the dedicated women in Santa Clarita who are staying the course to keep our patriotism strong.
The most important thing that we as women can do to honor those who came before us, is to VOTE!
Laurene Weste is a member of the Santa Clarita City Council.