As I was driving down to Montpelier (our state capitol) yesterday to join the Women’s March, I couldn’t help but think about all those determined and courageous suffragettes who in the 19th and early 20th century marched and protested and worked so hard to get the vote for women. Not just in this country but around the world. The passage of the U.S. 19th Amendment in 1920 guaranteed all women the right to vote. Previously, it was on a state by state basis with some states granting voting rights and others partial voting rights and some not at all. New Zealand (1893) and Australia (1902) were two of the first countries to give voting rights to women. And of course, there are still many places around the world today where women are not full voting citizens.
U.S. women had been working since the mid 1800s (and earlier) for the right to vote. They had Women’s Conventions, plays, pamphlets, marches, and more. They filed lawsuits, crashed inauguration events, went to jail, and went on hunger strikes to name just a few things. They were uppity! And it wasn’t just voting rights women were working for. Plenty of the things we take for granted now had to be fought for, like property rights for women, rights to their own earnings, divorce rights, educational rights and opportunities, and the list goes on. In fact, it wasn’t until 1972 (when I was in 9th grade) that Title IX was passed. (“Title IX is a comprehensive federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program or activity.”) One of the things this mandated was equal opportunities in terms of team and after school team sports for girls. Up until then our opportunities had been gymnastics and cheer leading. Or in other words, not a whole lot of opportunity.
By the early 20th century, women’s suffrage was gaining even greater strength, but World War I probably delayed its passing in many countries. The lack of male workers, also meant that women were taking on the roles of men in the factories, the farms, and just about everywhere so their activist efforts may have decreased then too. Women filling in for the men probably positively influenced many people’s minds about allowing full citizenship to women. Many countries granted women’s suffrage right after WWI.
All this and more I was thinking about as I sat for 40 minutes barely moving on the interstate trying to get off the Montpelier exit. The state police ended up closing that exit so I was glad I made it through. Many people didn’t get there until the very end of the rally, while others had to turn around and go home. They estimated about 15,000 women, men and children showed up. This in a city that has a population of about 8,000. Phew!!
I was impressed by how polite and peaceable everyone was, but that’s not surprising considering it was Vermont. Yet it also seemed the case at the other women’s marches all over the country and the world yesterday. And so many young women there too. I was glad to be a part of it.