Today is the anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and I’m giving thanks for Alice Stokes Paul.
She was arrested and jailed — and force-fed during a hunger strike — fighting for the rights of women in this country.
I wish I had known Alice Stokes Paul. I would have thanked her for her incredible courage.
I wish I had met so many of the suffragettes (the very word makes me proud, yet sad). I would like to have thanked them for easing the way for me to go to university in this country, to work here, to become a citizen, and to vote here. I would like to have thanked them for their many sacrifices.
These women protested and gave public speeches and traveled a long way for their civil rights. They faced the derision of their neighbors, the wrath of powerful men, and, for some, ostracization by their own families. They marched on Washington 100 years ago, and waved placards and banners every day in front of the White House, finally convincing Congress to pass the 19th amendment.
Don’t know it?
It includes this historic sentence: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”
The amendment was introduced in Congress in 1878, but it took 42 years before it passed.
I am grateful to read that the West — from California to Washington, and from Arizona to Montana — was the first to invite women to vote at the state, county and city/town levels too.
Like all civil rights in this country, it took a lifetime of protest and campaigning by women like Alice Stokes Paul and Lucy Burns and Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony to win the national vote. Women across the U.S. cast their first ballots in 1920.
I’m celebrating my first anniversary as a citizen this month, so I’m ever-grateful to Alice Stokes Paul and all the suffragettes who truly suffered for my rights.
With special thanks to friends who celebrated my citizenship with gifts of big books on all the presidents, and landmarks in American history. You can’t imagine how many times I’ve consulted those books, read them quietly — and aloud for others — and marveled at how this country was built.