Women’s Suffrage: The Next 100 Years
Although the 19th amendment was ratified 100 years ago, it was only the first step in ensuring women’s right to vote. A century later, SCETV hosted a discussion with South Carolina women about the past, present, and future of women’s suffrage.
While the 19th amendment codified women’s right to vote in 1920, South Carolina did not ratify the amendment until 1969. The slow support for universal women’s suffrage was limited to South Carolina. Native American, African American, Asian American, and Latinx women around the country continued to fight for decades for equal rights. These women and their allies overcame literacy tests, poll taxes, non-handicap accessible polling places, and many more barriers. In their story, we find the determination and civic engagement that is the bedrock of democracy.
South Carolina currently ranks 45th in female political representation with only 16.5% of the state legislature identifying as female. During the SCETV show, Ann Warner and Tameika Isaac Devine emphasized that women must have the tenacity and commitment to run for office because nothing will be given unless women come to the table. Panel members commented on the importance of encouraging women to run for office and asserted that a prospective candidate need not have a graduate or law degree, but must understand the issues.
The panel addressed how to identify and combat voter suppression. Removing polling stations, creating barriers to absentee voting, and requiring IDs are all examples of these tactics. The panelists offered several suggestions of actions you can take this November, such as volunteering to work at the polls, driving people to the polls, and taking bottled water to those waiting in line. With the COVID-19 pandemic and Black Lives Matter protests, the impact of these voter suppression tactics, particularly on minority neighborhoods, has never been more relevant or more visible.
Panelists also discussed gender-based pay discrepancies. Founder Dr. Lilly Filler gave examples of how female professionals, including doctors, are making $.80 on the dollar compared with their male counterparts. Pay equity has to be addressed. Often we are told to vote with our dollars if we dislike a company or political party’s actions. Due to the wage gap, there is inequity in women’s voices and opinions being heard by companies and governments. When voting is not just occurring at the ballot box, economic women’s suffrage is as relevant now as it was 100 years ago.
We have celebrated the centennial of the 19th Amendment and now it is time to look toward the next 100 years of women’s rights. We must do everything in our power to continue supporting qualified female candidates by contributing to relevant organizations, have the difficult conversations about voter suppression and inequality with friends and family, and ask ourselves if perhaps we or women close to us are ready to run for office. In the next 100 years, we want to hear people all over the United States say, “Madam President.”
By Eleanor Davis Pierel, Research Associate
SC Women in Leadership
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