The Guardian by Megan Botel
August 18, 2020
With the US democracy facing perhaps its gravest threat, from voter suppression to the decimation of the US Postal Service – activists are working doubly hard this year to ensure free and fair elections.
But present-day enfranchisement efforts often fail to acknowledge how the 70-year-long women’s suffragette movement has informed that work. “Before suffragists, you didn’t see groups engaging in public civil disobedience,” said Colleen Shogan, senior vice-president and director of the David M Rubenstein Center at the White House Historical Association. “No one had picketed in front of the White House before Alice Paul and others did on 10 January 1917.”
The movement culminated in the ratification of the 19th amendment on 18 August 1920, marking the end of one of America’s longest-running social justice movements. It produced the single largest enfranchisement effort in the nation’s history, guaranteeing women the right to vote. But it was only a beginning.
Many, especially Black women, did not benefit from the 19th amendment. But they did not waver in fighting for equal rights. Fannie Lou Hamer, among the leaders of the 1964 Freedom Summer Campaign and co-founder of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, carried her force into the civil rights movement. Dorothy Height, who was a key organizer of the 1963 March on Washington, helped found the National Women’s Political Caucus in 1971.