By Ana Martinez-Ortiz
Tuesday, Aug. 18 marked 100 years since American women were given the right to vote. The 19th Amendment became a part of the Constitution in 1920, 50 years after the 15th Amendment passed. For white women, the amendment guaranteed their right but for many Black women the fight wasn’t yet over.
According to the History Channel, the women’s rights movement began in 1848 with the Seneca Falls Convention, which was founded by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott. After the convention, Susan B. Anthony and other activists banded together to fight for their right to vote.
Sojourner Truth and Frances E.W. Harper led the Black women’s fight for the right to vote. Since the national suffrage groups where predominantly white and largely ignored the plight of the Black woman, Black suffragists formed their own organizations such as the National Association of Colored Women Clubs, according to the History Channel. Among the leaders were Mary Church Terrell and Ida B. Wells-Barnett.
Eventually, in 1919 U.S. Rep. James Mann (R-Illinois), who served as a chairman for the Suffrage Committee, proposed the Susan Anthony Amendment or the 19th Amendment.
A year later it was official.
In an interview with Time, Martha S. Jones, historian and author of the book “Vanguard: How Black Women Break Barriers, Won the Vote and Insisted on Equality for All,” talked about the role Black women played in securing the right to vote.
Jones explained to Times that the 19th Amendment did not address the literacy tests or poll taxes, which prevented Black Americans of both sexes from voting. She said that Black women were purposefully left out so that the white suffrage groups could maintain the support of the white southern women. She added that Black women attended a conference at the African Methodist Episcopal Church that predated the Seneca Falls Convention.
Eventually in 1964, under the 24th Amendment, the poll tax was eliminated. Several years later in 1970, Congress banned the literacy tests.
In a tweet, Sen. Kamala Harris, the Democratic nominee for Vice President wrote, “100 years ago today the 19th Amendment was ratified, but many Black women and women of color were unable to exercise their constitutional right for decades. I would not be the Democratic candidate for Vice President without those who fought and paved the way before me. Vote.”
Since being given the right to vote, women have never failed to show up at elections. According to a report from May 2019 by the Pew Research Center, since 1998, women have turned out at slightly higher rates than men at midterm elections.
At the 100-year anniversary of the 19th Amendment, it’s important to acknowledge at how far America has come, but its likewise as critical to look ahead at all the work that has yet to be achieved.