By Ria Patel
On this day, August 18, 100 years ago, Tennessean legislator Harry Burns cast his vote to ratify the 19th Amendment, making Tennessee the last of the 36 required states to pass a national law to give women voting rights. This law came into effect nearly 65 years after the establishment of universal white male suffrage, and its passage garnered protests and anger from those who believed female voting rights should not exist. Burns himself had pledged opposition towards the amendment until that morning when he received a letter from his mother telling him “Hurrah! Vote in suffrage!” and “to be a good boy.”
The ratification of the 19th Amendment was the culmination of decades of tireless advocacy and activism from feminists across the country, and their fight for representation is what allows us women to be able to vote today.
However, not every woman earned the right to vote overnight. Women of color, most notably black women, were soon barred from voting through Jim Crow laws. It was not until after the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that they too were allowed to participate in electing government officials.
If this all still seems too far in the past and insignificant, just look at our government today. Women make up just above a quarter of the U.S. senate and an even smaller percentage in the House of Representatives. To this day, there have been zero female presidents or vice presidents in the United States; only three women have served as a major party’s vice presidential nominee, the last of which was nominated less than ten days ago. Democratic vice president nominee Kamala Harris is also the first woman of color to ever serve on a major party’s presidential ticket.
This is all to say, your vote, especially as a young female, matters more now than ever before. When it comes to representation in politics, women have made enormous strides in the past years, but there is still so much more to be done. And like it began with Burns himself, it all starts with the casting of a single vote.
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