Ernesta R. Walker participated in our Great July Giveaway – noting that her most valued personal freedom is the right to vote. In light of that, we invited her to write a piece commemorating the 90-year anniversary of the 19th Amendment – which gave women the right to vote. She shares the history of the Amendment – and the honor and responsibility bestowed with that Amendment, here.
"Men, their rights, and nothing more; women, their rights, and nothing less.” - Susan B. Anthony
August 26th marks the 90th anniversary of women’s right to vote. On Nov. 15, 1917 brave women like Alice Paul and others were tortured and imprisoned and only given spoiled food to eat in what is now known as the “Night of Terror” because they had picketed President Woodrow Wilson’s White House for the right to vote. But their efforts were not in vain – they attracted sufficient media attention to – almost 70 years after the inception of the women’s suffrage movement – drive President Wilson on January 9, 1918 to voice his support for women’s suffrage.
Over two and a half years later, after the House of Representatives and then the Senate had supported women’s right to vote, Tennessee ratified the amendment – the 36th state to do so. This made it official – and women’s right to vote became the 19th Amendment to the Constitution.
Besides the work of these great women, we must remember the efforts of Fannie Lou Hamer who, through her tireless advocacy, prepared 1,000 black voters in Winona, Mississippi to register and take the test to vote. She was arrested and beaten and not taken to the hospital. The injuries suffered from that bloody beating left Hamer with permanent damage for the rest of her life.
Today there are more women registered to vote than men -- with a wide berth of nearly 10 million women. But we know that being registered is not enough; our fight is not finished, we must get out and vote – we must raise our voices on issues of importance – and we must run for office.
Here in New York state 51 women state senators and assembly members serve on the Legislative Women’s Caucus, working to improve the participation of women in the political process and to address and draft public policy issues on cervical cancer, the rising tide of obesity, improving heart health and so on - all to benefit women and their families. Across the country, the California Commission on the Status of Women also works to address the needs of women statewide and to encourage women to run for office. We must support these initiatives, as they support us.
I plan to celebrate the 90 year anniversary of women’s right to vote with others at the Susan B. Anthony House in Rochester, New York, where she spent most of her life and is buried (SusanBAnthonyHouse.org), and by listening to peace troubadour Cecilia St. King perform a blend of American roots music and songs about the women’s movement. But more importantly, I will confidently make my own decisions on this November 2nd by choosing candidates that speak and fight for issues I feel strongly about. Gratefully honoring our right to vote, I wish to issue the clarion call to women to
Vote together sisters don't ya get weary.
Vote together sisters don’t ya get weary.
For there's a great camp meeting in the promised land.
Ernesta Walker is a community volunteer focusing on but not limited to girl's and women's issues. Presently, she is homeless and living in a women's shelter.