Thursday, April 18, 2024
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Month celebrates women's history, suffrage

Women's history is filled with stories of struggle and determination, and one of the most significant struggles women faced was the fight for voting rights. For centuries, women were denied the right to vote, and it was not until the early 20th century that significant progress was made in this area.

In the United States, the suffrage movement began in earnest in the mid-19th century. Women's rights activists like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton led the charge, organizing protests and rallies to draw attention to the issue of voting rights for women. Despite their efforts, however, progress was slow. It was not until the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified in 1920 that women finally gained the right to vote.

The struggle for voting rights was not limited to the United States, however. Women around the world faced similar challenges, and many fought tirelessly for the right to have their voices heard. In Great Britain, suffragettes like Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughters led a campaign of civil disobedience that included hunger strikes and property destruction. They were eventually successful in winning the right to vote in 1918.

In Canada, women's suffrage was first granted at the provincial level. In 1916, Manitoba became the first province to grant women the right to vote in provincial elections. Saskatchewan followed suit later that year, and Alberta and British Columbia followed in 1917. It was not until 1918 that women were granted the right to vote in federal elections.

In Australia, women gained the right to vote in 1902, making it the first country in the world to grant universal suffrage to both men and women. New Zealand had already granted women the right to vote in 1893.

The struggle for women's voting rights was not without its challenges. Women faced opposition from both men and women who believed that women were not suited for political participation. Women's suffrage was often portrayed as a threat to traditional gender roles and the family unit. Opponents argued that women's suffrage would lead to the breakdown of the family and the moral fabric of society. This same sentiment is making a resurgence among certain groups looking to limit women’s participation in democracy.

Despite these challenges and setbacks, women's suffrage continued to gain momentum. Women organized rallies, wrote letters, and lobbied politicians to make their voices heard. They formed suffrage organizations and used their platforms to advocate for change.

The first state to grant women the right to vote was Wyoming in 1869, followed by Utah (1870), Colorado (1893), Idaho (1896), Washington (1910), California (1911), Oregon and Arizona (1912), Montana (1914), North Dakota, New York, and Rhode Island (1917), and Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Michigan (1918). The efforts of Emma Smith DeVoe were crucial to obtaining suffrage in Idaho and later Washington. She also founded the National Council of Women Voters with the five western equal suffrage states (Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, Idaho and Washington) as the members.

It wasn’t until the 19th Amendment was passed in 1920, after years of struggle and sacrifice, that women were granted the right to vote nationally.

The struggle for women's voting rights is an important part of women's history. Women around the world have fought tirelessly to gain the right to have their voices heard, and the efforts they paved are once again under threat. It is important to remember the sacrifices that were made and to continue to fight for equality in all aspects of life. Women's suffrage was a major victory, but there is still work to be done to ensure that women's rights are protected and respected.

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The Boundary County Human Rights Task Force invites you to celebrate the many contributions women have made to the United States. To view the specific achievements women have made over the course of American history in a variety of fields, please visit the Smithsonian American Women’s History Museum website at womenshistory.si.edu and the Library of Congress at womenshistorymonth.gov.