Explainer: Women’s Right to Vote

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Voting is at the very core of an American’s rights. A vote voices who Americans want to represent them in decisions that will affect themselves, their family, and their neighbors. Even though voting has been at the core of American’s rights since the birth of the United States, it did not start out as a right for all. Only major participation and engagement has changed and expanded that right. 

There are multiple movements in history that have expanded the right to vote. Even though the push seems to be most obvious with the Civil War, the 15th Amendment and eventually the Civil Rights Movement, movements to make and keep voting equal,started 13 years before the Civil War began. 

The first organized effort to get women the right to vote was called the Seneca Falls Convention, or what it was originally called, the Women’s Rights Convention. The convention was organized by Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton and fought for social, civil and religious rights of women. It was held in Seneca Falls, N.Y., and at the event 300 attendees discussed 11 resolutions. 

Susan B. Anthony’s life of activism did not begin or end with a single convention, however. She led a life that ultimately resulted in the 19th Amendment. Anthony attended various anti-slavery cenventions, wrote the “Appeal to the Women of the Republic” with Stanton, and actively protested against women not being able to vote, in which she was arrested in 1872 for voting illegally. 

The Women’s Suffrage Movement is an enormous movement that earned women the right to vote. In which the 19th Amendment states “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on the account of sex. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.” Or essentially, saying that men and women are both equally allowed to vote. 

Although this was a sweeping amendment for all women, the reality of the amendment was that the right was won for white women in 1920. Women of color often found themselves to still be shut out of the voting booth and unable to exercise a vote they fought for alongside their white counterparts. These women of color were primarily the African-American women in the Jim Crow South as well as Asian Americans and Native Americans who were not granted citizenship. 

Earning the right to vote was the most important movement for women, but the fight to be included is far from over. 

“Women should go out and do more in the community,” Krista Baumeister,  a freshman member of the Voices of Justice LLC at Cabrini University, said.  “I think we need more associations in politics to get work done.” 

There are several ways in today’s country that women can get involved.. One organization to consider joining is a local chapter of the League of Women Voters. Women can also join Moms Demand Action, an organization founded and mainly run by mothers who advocate and lobby Congress on the federal and state levels on gun violence issues important to their communities. 

The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan organization that supports no candidates or political parties at any level of government. It works on issues of concern to its members and the general public. The League encourages informed and active participation in government and understanding public policy issues. Their mission is to empower voters and defend democracy. 

Moms Demand Action is a grassroots movement of Americans that is fighting for safety measures that can protect people from gun violence. They work in their own communities to encourage a culture of responsible gun ownership. There is one chapter of the organization in each state and Washington D.C. 

“There’s a stereotype about women in power,” Rachel Seymour, freshman political science major and a member of the Voices of Justice, said. “That if a women is in power, everything’s in shambles.” 

College and high school women are more likely to join their local March For Our Lives chapters, which primarily advocate for an end to gun violence. Women can run for local, state, or federal office or help organize or volunteer for campaigns of March For Our Lives.

March For Our Lives is a student started and led movement and organization that works to harness the power of the young people across the United States to fight for sensible gun violence prevention policies that save lives. 

If they cannot join a cause, women can call their representatives as well as be educated on the important issues. It will help when they go to elect their new leaders, and they will know what questions to ask when their lives are negatively affected.

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Youth Voters Unite is a transmedia storytelling project produced by senior Communication majors at Cabrini University. Students in Senior Convergence: Media for Social Justice are reporting this academic year on the voting process and voting justice topics. Their goal is to educate youth voters on the importance of engaging in the political process and claiming their right to shape their own future. 


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