Yesterday, August 26, was Women's Equality Day in the United States. On August 26, 1920, the 19th amendment was adopted, giving women nationwide in the United States the constitutional right to vote for the first time.
For that, we need to thank the 19th century, as I did in this post (slightly edited) from earlier in the year.
If you are a woman, do you vote? Do you exercise your hard earned rights, or do you take them for granted?
Thanking the 19th Century
100 years ago, in the United States, women could not vote in a national election (that right was granted by the 19th amendment, ratified in 1920) nor in many local/state elections.
In this building, in July of 1848, the First Women's Right Convention was held. Out of this convention a document called the Declaration of Sentiments came, signed by 68 women and 32 men.
I would like to write this letter to all the signers of this document, but especially, the women:
"Dear signers of the Declaration of Sentiments:
"I owe so much to you, as a married woman living in the United States. Due to your courage:
-I have the right to vote
-I can keep the wages I make
-I have the right to own property and to pass it down, upon my death, to the person or persons I choose
-I have the right to an education.
and I have other rights women in some other countries don't have - the right not to have their bodies mutilated, the right to marry or not marry, the right to become or not become pregnant, the right to attend school without worrying about being kidnapped and sold into slavery, or being killed, and even the right to drive a car.
If I wanted to write a book, I could do that under my own name. I wouldn't have to pretend to be a man.
It took so many years for you to win those rights for me. Instrumental in getting these rights were your efforts in getting women the right to vote.
And now, too many women take these rights for granted. Many of us don't vote. We don't take advantage of educational opportunities. We devalue ourselves.
A sad thing about history is, if you didn't live it, you tend to forget it. I can remember the days of "Male" and "female" help wanted ads, just as one example. I can remember when one of my high school teachers became pregnant, and had to leave when she started to show. (This, incidentally, was in 1969.)
You all taught me never to take rights for granted. Rights taken for granted are rights lost.
Worst of all, there are places where women have never had those rights, and both men and women suffer for it. That's part of women's history, too, the story of the present.
Those once called suffragettes, thank you for your courage.
Thank you for what you did for generations yet unborn. Like mine.