As I sit here on the eve of this historic election, I think about this moment and what it means for our history. When the League of Women Voters was founded in 1920, it was hard to imagine a women would ever run for president, let alone be at the top of a major party’s ticket. At the time, only one woman had ever served in the U.S. Congress. Jeannette Pickering Rankin of Montana was in the House of Representatives and actually voted for the 19th Amendment, prohibiting any U.S. citizen from being denied the right to vote on the basis of sex.
Since women won the right to vote, more and more women have occupied our halls of power. It’s taken a century of progress to get us to this point. That sort of change takes time. It’s never easy. Days or weeks or even years at a time, it may feel like we’re at a standstill. But the kind of change and equality that the League represents are possible.
We need to remember that long journey as we face our unfinished work. Today, we still experience threats to voting rights. In 2013, the Supreme Court rolled back key parts of the Voting Rights Act, making it harder for millions of eligible Americans to vote. These setbacks are frustrating, but our past achievements show why we need to keep working to ensure equality at the ballot box.
Even as our hard work may seem like slow going, across the arc of our country’s history, we’ve sailed past so many milestones.
The right to vote — which so many men and women fought and suffered for — is too often taken for granted. When we vote today, we honor that heritage. I think of our predecessors, the suffragists and League founders and what this moment would mean to them.
Democratic National Convention, 1920
And what it does mean to them.
The League’s early days seem like a page out of deep-rooted history. But think about this: Thousands of women who were alive when the 19th Amendment passed — and when Mrs. Rankin broke that barrier — are casting their votes in this election. In their lifetime alone, we have gone from getting harassed and beaten for trying to vote to being on the eve of possibly electing the first woman president of the United States.
Sophia Horne and Elizabeth Hunnicutt getting out the vote in Atlanta, Georgia, 1926
So even as our hard work may seem like slow going, across the arc of our country’s history, we’ve sailed past so many milestones. No matter who we elect on Tuesday, the year 2016 will be another remarkable chapter in that history.
Images: League of Women Voters (3)