Picture this: Hundreds and thousands of women across the country taking to the streets holding parades and rallies, engaging in mass civil disobedience: hunger strikes, petitioning and leafleting until they won state by state the ratification of the 19th Amendment—our right to vote.
August 18, 1920, the amendment passed its final hurdle by obtaining the agreement of three-fourths of the states. On August 26, 1920, Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby certified the ratification--changing the face of the American electorate forever. Thanks to the efforts of U.S. Congresswoman Bella Abzug, the U.S.. Congresswoman, August 26th was designated Women's Equality Day to mark the historic passage of the 19th Amendment.
Because of our mothers, grand-mothers, and great-grandmothers’ efforts we enjoy rights that were not afforded them. Today, women are fully integrated into the workforce- we are now judges, lawyers, firefighters, airline pilots , welders, plumbers – you name it – we can do it. The question is where are women when it is time to vote? Over 40 million single women did not vote in the last Presidential Election. Hmmn? Suffrage- the power of the vote. I wonder what Susan B. Anthony-- who was 32 when she attended her first woman's rights convention in Syracuse New York (1852)-- would have said about that? Her words that still echo through herstory, "that the right which woman needed above every other, the one indeed which would secure to her all the others, was the right of suffrage."
So are we really equal? You tell me? Do we have top quality child care in the workplace? Do we have women breastfeeding while they are working on legislation in Congress? Why do we still have to plead to get lead out of toys and candy? Why are the messes on the planet not yet cleaned up? Why do we have to feed our children mercury tuna and GMO corn and BHT and etc. etc?
In her book "Urgent Message from Mother- Gather the Women and Save the World", Jean Shinoda Bolen reminds us, "Women are experienced in looking after children, fragile elders, cleaning up, setting the house in order, being frugal with resources, putting food on the table, maintaining peace in the family and staying on good terms with the neighbors". Now tell me that this is something we can't scale up?
Bolen goes on to say, "The world needs what women can do. The world needs 'mother' to set things right in our unbalanced world." So we organize Walks for Breast Cancer Research, we run board meetings, set play dates for our children, and host mega charity benefits but what are we doing for we women? Our time is now! The time to support women’s issues is now! The time to support your sister, is now!. So…we got the right to vote—yes? Voting means candidates—yes? There is an election coming up..right? So where are the women?
Now back to a quick lesson from herstory (history with and "e")--
The story goes, Susan B. Anthony and her group of friends in Rochester New York figured since the Fourteenth Amendment (the equal protection and due process amendment) that had recently been adopted applied to them. These strong headed women went to the registrar of voters-- set up in a local barber shop-- and said "we want to vote". The three young men who were the official registrars freaked out; this was outrageous, women wanting to vote?. However, Susan B. won them over with, " Look you guys, the Fourteenth Amendment said that all persons born and naturalized in the United States...are citizens of the United States,... and as citizens were entitled to the 'privileges' of citizens of the United States.” Susan B naturally believed this applied to women.. After much hoopla and discussion they were registered to vote in the next national election because these women had a valid point!.
Ah…but not so easy said the Rochester Union and Advertiser newspaper. Their headlines screamed and the words flew: "Citizenship no more carries the right to vote than it carries the power to fly to the moon...If these women in the Eighth Ward offer to vote, they should be challenged, and if they take the oaths and the Inspectors receive and deposit their ballots, they should all be prosecuted to the full extent of the law." "Bah humbug", said the suffragettes. And so Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony went right to publishing the famous Minor's analysis of the Fourteenth Amendment in their newspaper, the Revolution. The newspaper touted, "The true republic — men, their rights and nothing more; women, their rights and nothing less.” They urged women to vote in defiance of any state law. Women in at least 10 states heeded this advice and set out to vote in 1871 and 1872; although most of the women were sent home, a few others managed to cast their ballots. 1 on November 5, 1872 Susan B. cast her ballot in Rochester, New York. Nay! Nay! Cried the men. On November 18, 1872 a United States Deputy Marshall arrested Susan B. and her other women cohorts who voted. How dare these women think they can vote!
Susan B. did not back down. She went on with a rallying statement that included "We appeal to the women everywhere to exercise their too long neglected "citizen's right to vote." We appeal to the inspectors of elections everywhere to receive the votes of all United States citizens as it is their duty to do. We appeal to United States commissioners and marshals to arrest the inspectors who reject the names and votes of United States citizens, as it is their duty to do, and leave those alone who, like our eighth ward inspectors, perform their duties faithfully and well. "
The fateful day of her trial was on June 17, 1873. By the way her attorney was a woman, Matilda Joslyn Grace. Picture this: Susan B. was wearing a new bonnet faced with blue silk and draped with a veil as she walked up the steps of the courthouse on the opening day of her trial. The second-floor courtroom was filled to capacity. The spectators included a former president, Millard Fillmore, who had traveled over from Buffalo, where he practiced law. Judge Ward Hunt sat behind the bench, looking stolid in his black broadcloth and neck wound in a white neckcloth. Anthony later would described Hunt as "a small-brained, pale-faced, prim-looking man, enveloped in a faultless black suit and a snowy white tie." Even though she made her famous On Women’s Right to Vote speech, Susan B Anthony lost her case. The jury found her guilty,  because Judge Hunt declared, "The Fourteenth Amendment gives no right to a woman to vote, and the voting by Miss Anthony was in violation of the law. Upon this evidence I suppose there is no question for the jury and that the jury should be directed to find a verdict of guilty."
Did Susan B. and everyone give up and go home? No. She ordered 3,000 copies of the trial proceedings printed. She distributed them to political activists, politicians, and libraries. Hundreds and thousand of women set into motion shaking this nation and moving over archaic laws into herstory! They believed the impossible was doable!
OK – back to the modern day era—ipods, blogs and all that. So where do we go from her? What is the moral of this story? . Got peace? Want child care or clean water? Health Care for all? End to warfare? We gotta get up – get going and stand together
Yes- they (whoever they are) still say nice women can't do " (fill-in-the-blank)" – but didn't we hear that before? Our herstory, stands to tell the world that we can and will do whatever it is we set our minds to, as long as we-women-stand together. We, women, regardless of age, race, denomination, party affiliation, sexual preference, must stand together for women’s issues!
So get on your high heels, running shoes, flip flops, boots- and stand up, and stand tall. Fire up your PDA, your laptop, and the coffee pot ( Fair Trade organic please) and take action. Organize!- Run for Office! Start a cooperative daycare, plant trees or start a community organic garden—JUST DO IT!
And most important
REGISTER EVERY WOMAN YOU SEE TO VOTE! And next year have a Women’s Equality Day Parade in your area.
You owe it to yourself and everywoman that suffered for you!
 Source: Women's Rights on Trial, 1st Ed., Gale, 1997, p.312 .
 The Trial of Susan B. Anthony for Illegal Voting
by Doug Linder (2001)
 The Trial of Susan B. Anthony for Illegal Voting
by Doug Linder (2001)
Women's Equality Day Actions:
August 25th, 2007 California Women’s Equality Day Parade and Rally at The State Capitol in Sacramento http://www.womenequalityparade.com/
Long Island NOW (National Organization For Women) members, friends, associates, and family of the late Dr. Eleanor Schetlin (1920-2007) are hosting a National Women's Day celebration honoring her and other veteran feminists, to be held on Saturday, August 25, 2007 from 2 to 4 PM at the home of East End NOW President Marilyn Fitterman.
On August 26, 2007, the Pro-Choice Coalition will be hosting a Women's Equality Day Celebration at the North Regional/BCC Library in Coconut Creek, FL. The event begins at 1:30, and light refreshments will be served.
There is no charge for admission and everyone is welcome. For further information, call (954) 722-8805. or e-mail: [email protected]
Make Women's Equality a Top Issue in 2008 Elections Petition: http://www.now.org/issues/election/equality-day-petition.html/
Women’s Equality Day E-Greeting Cards
For Further Reading
Barry, Kathleen. Susan B. Anthony: A Biography. New York: New York University Press, 1988.
Flexner, Eleanor. Century of Struggle. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, Belknap Press, 1959, revised 1975.
Frost, Elizabeth, and Kathryn Cullen-DuPont. Women's Suffrage in America: An Eyewitness History. New York: Facts on File, 1992.
Harper, Ida Husted. Life and Work of Susan B. Anthony. 1898. Reprint. Salem, N.H.: Ayer Co., 1983.
Stanton, Elizabeth Cady, Susan B. Anthony, and Matilda Joslyn Gage. History of Woman Suffrage, Vol. 2, 1882. Reprint. Salem, N.H.: Ayer Co., 1985.
Redwood Mary is
the Executive Director of
Circle The Earth - Grassroots Women Taking Action for a Sustainable Future - and
California Women's Agenda, Environmental Co-Chair
CIRCLE THE EARTH
P.O. Box 14146
Berkeley CA 94712