Every time we step into the voting booth we give thanks for the women who fought for that right.
As we approach the end of another momentous year in America, and next year, 2020, promises to be even bigger.
Not only will Americans vote for a president, more than half the population has reason to celebrate a seminal event in U.S. history — passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution giving women the right to vote.
This nation has traveled a great distance since the following editorial appeared in the New York Times in 1859:
“Now, women — we mean women en masse — with all respect be it said, are just at present, in the matter of politics, even in the largest and best sense of the word, very much in the position of minors with regard to the management and disposition of property. … We simply assert that women, as they are, are not fit to vote …”
Ignoring the tortured grammar and syntax, the point is that women of that era were held in generally low regard, at least when it came to making decisions for themselves.
The 19th Amendment was approved by Congress in 1920, however several states had already granted women the right to vote. A few Western states allowed women to vote while they were still territories, awaiting statehood. New Jersey’s state Constitution acknowledged women’s voting rights with its passage in 1776, conferring such rights on “all adult inhabitants” property owners. Those rights for women were withdrawn a couple of decades later.
It’s been a steady, uphill battle for women’s rights in this country, and while America hosts a modern social structure in almost every respect, many Americans still harbor doubts about granting full rights to women. Such doubts are absurd.
The U.S. Census count from 2010 shows 161 million females and 156 million males. A slim majority, but a majority nonetheless.
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And in America’s older population, women outnumber men by a 2-1 margin.
Yet, ours is a male-dominated society. Women have stepped up their game considerably in each recent election cycle, winning seats at every level of government. Still, in the current session of Congress, House and Senate, males hold just more than 80 percent of the seats.
There are good reasons for such an imbalance. The division of responsibilities in the average family. A rise in the number of single-parent households, mostly affecting women.
Good reasons, but not good enough when it comes to equality. Male-dominated legislative bodies tend toward male-centric agendas, in part because too many men think women aren’t necessarily interested in policy-making.
We believe such thinking needs to change, especially in view of the edge women hold in the population’s gender ratio. That’s true in politics and in business.
There are modern-day women’s movements that have gained a lot of traction, mostly having to do with sexual harassment and job issues. A movement that needs to be fostered involves those who believe the time has come for women to become more involved in the matter of creating sound public policy.
If that involvement can be fully developed, many of the non-political issues American women are facing can be resolved in a more equitable manner.
The idea in the late 1800s and early 1900s was to secure a woman’s right to vote, but equal rights — for every American, male and female — go so much further than that, touching every aspect of our daily lives.
Suffrage was an inevitable beginning. Now the challenge is to ensure that all Americans are treated fairly — and the same.