The 100th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment and the Inequality of It
Is the 100th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment the Anniversary of Misinformation?
This week, the 26th of August, precisely, marks the 100th anniversary of the passing of the Nineteenth Amendment of the Constitution. This finally gave women the right to vote. We frequently hear of the White women that had to do with the suffrage movement of the early 1900s. Almost all of us are familiar with the names Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. Many of us began learning about them in elementary school.
Missing From History Books... The women we don't hear about are the women of Color and Black women that influenced women's suffrage in profound ways. There were Suffragettes of Color who knew they still wouldn't be able to vote after the ratification of the 19th amendment. They championed the cause they believed in anyway. They wanted equal voting rights for women and equal rights for women universally.
There were quite a few White women that discouraged Black women and Women of Color from having equality in the movement. Women like Alice Paul and Susan B Anthony wanted to segregate the fight for the vote. White women even put Black women and women of Color in the March in 1913 at the back of the group. A separate group of Black Suffragettes and march of Black and Brown women would have been even better to some. Yet these Brave women refused to let their voices for the equality of women to be silenced by racism, ignorance, and bigotry.
Not Missing From History... We learned about the White women that were active in the women’s suffrage movement as a base of our education. It a minuscule base (they were women after all). What most of us have not heard are the stories of the few Black voices and the voices of women of Color that were able to make it through the last century. This may be due to publications they wrote, scholarly papers written about them, or the countless unseen activists that have kept the names of those Black women and women of Color, such staunch supporters of Women's Rights, alive by telling the entire truth of Women's Suffrage.
It is time to celebrate these women. To celebrate them with joy and love. It's been a hundred years. There is nobody in the US who has learned more than a minute amount of the truth of our history during our formal educations. Most of us haven't been taught about the multi-faceted and wonderful group of diverse women who made the women's equality movement and the 19th amendment more accessible for all women.
And for people who, myself included, haven't heard these phenomenal women’s stories until now...learning them isn't enough. Teach them. Reach them. Teach our girls and young women that they deserve the empowerment and education that women fought to get for them 100 years ago. They have a right to it.
Teach young women and young men who are inundated, still, with a narrow world view at the hands of teachers that may or may not know the truth, but are obligated in what they teach. Teach the teacher if necessary. Teach everyone the history that is hidden from us. How else will we make change happen, if not with the future generations of empowered women?
Black women and women of Color are and always have been the most under-served, underprivileged, and discriminated against group in this country. Youth, all of them, need to know how far we’ve come in Women’s Rights. To know that we also stayed stagnant. It is a counter-intuitive dichotomy. Society is bursting with them.
Hidden from History. It must be said that it isn't easy to find information on Black and Brown women of Color during the suffrage movement. The search involves pieced together stories, half-truths, contradictions, and the glossing over of the major contributions of Suffragettes, Black or of Color, made to society at large.
I won’t relegate these women to a mere list of paragraphs, filled only cursory dates and names. Or, at the bottom of a long list of White women. I was dumbfounded when I saw an article written just that way during my research. What I'm going to try to do (I say try because I am White and not a Suffragette) is to tell their stories to the best of my ability. To increase awareness of Herstory and remind women and men that empowerment for women comes with knowledge, truth, and, most importantly, action.
I Will Not Hide Them. I will call out their names for others to hear. Black women and women of Color alike that were instrumental in the suffrage movement and in empowering women across the country.
Of Note: I’ve just written an entire article about a group of people, about telling their stories and how important they were as individuals and motivators, without saying their names. An experiment, if you will. I glossed them over on purpose and it was uncomfortable and awkward.
Somehow, I don’t think the authors of history books felt this remorse.
Be sure to do more history on the Black and Women of Color Suffragists to learn how they shaped a movement that history books decided not to write about: Ida B. Wells, Mary Church Terrell, Harriet Forten Purvis, Sojourner Truth, Mabel Ping-Hua Lee, Zitkala-Sa, Jovita Idar, and Ana Roque de Duprey.