The new year is right around the corner. And soon after, Black History Month, and then, Women’s History Month. 2020 will certainly be a big year–it’ll mark 100 years since the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified, giving women the right to vote. But is that really accurate? When we say “women have had the right to vote for 100 years,” does it include all women?
The short answer is “no.”
Black women, Asian American women, Native women, and Hispanic women faced various means of voter suppression. This was done through fraud, intimidation, and later, literacy tests and poll taxes at voting stations. Literacy tests were implemented from the 1890s to the 1960s to make it more difficult for immigrants and Black Americans to vote. Poll taxes, which were more common in southern states, worked similarly to suppress voters of color.
Segregated schools and educational inequality made literacy difficult. Similarly, earning money to survive was difficult enough, let alone vote.
Black women like Sojourner Truth were pivotal in the suffragist movement. Yet it wasn’t until the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965 (long after Truth’s death), that Black women could vote without facing racial discrimination. Only at the height of the Civil Rights Movement was this accomplished.
How (and Who of) The Suffragist Movement Will be Remembered
Next year, Central Park will have its first monument depicting women. The statue will commemorate Sojourner Truth, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Susan B. Anthony, who were pivotal in the suffragist movement. An article in the New York Post notes, “the statue’s unveiling is set for August 2020 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment, which gave women the right to vote. It’s also the 200th anniversary of Stanton’s birth.” Also noted in the article is that Sojourner Truth originally wasn’t going to be featured in the monument. She was added after much-warranted criticism of her exclusion.
“This statue conveys the power of women working together to bring about revolutionary change in our society,” said Pam Elam, president of the Monumental Women nonprofit of volunteer advocates, historians and community leaders.
Let’s do better to preserve and celebrate women’s voting rights accurately.