Today America celebrates Women’s Equality Day. This day marks the national centennial of passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: “The right of citizens to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the U.S. or any state because of sex.”
This milestone for the women’s suffrage movement occurred following ratification by Tennessee, the 36th state required for the three-fourths majority. Aug. 26 is observed as the 100th anniversary of the women’s suffrage amendment, which was first introduced in 1878 and certified by the U.S. Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby, permitting 26 million women to participate in the 1920 presidential election. Women’s contributions to the Great War effort were vital to impress upon male voters and elected officials women’s importance to the continued success of our democracy.
Each state has its unique suffrage history. Women’s right to vote was raised occasionally in the Territory of New Mexico because several Western states pioneered the practice. Thousands of women and men in New Mexico worked together to build support for suffrage between 1911 and 1920. On Feb. 21, 1920, the amendment was ratified in New Mexico in a special legislative session. The rich history of voting rights in New Mexico and nationally is explored in Megan Kamerick’s four podcasts at www.newmexicopbs.org/new-mexico-and-the-vote-podcast/.
Expansion of the right to vote has a long and difficult history and wasn’t complete in 1920 or even today. It took much longer for disenfranchised minority groups to gain voting rights – only white women were granted the right to vote during 1920, with continuing struggles by Black women and all Native Americans.
President Coolidge signed the Indian Citizenship Act in 1924, permitting Native Americans who were not living on reservations the right to vote. It took Miguel Trujillo Jr., who was denied voting rights after fighting in WWII, to win a N.M. Supreme Court decision recognizing the right of all Native Americans to vote. Most Black women’s struggle for the vote was not obtained until the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
This racial disparity continues today by voter suppression when there are an inadequate number of polling places in minority communities or restricted polling place hours and limited Postal Service availability for absentee voting. Minorities still seek equality in the American workplace and representative employment in professions providing both recognition and an equal share in the rewards from our national prosperity. This historic milestone marking white women’s earning the right to vote only reminds us of the many national challenges we Americans face as this nation progresses toward a more just and inclusive democracy.
2020 also marks the 100th anniversary of the League of Women Voters, which formed from the National American Women’s Suffrage Association in Chicago on Feb. 14, 1920. From its inception, LWV focused on registering the new women electorate to vote and promoting an understanding of governmental policies, and our mission continues to educate voters and protect voting rights for everyone amidst this pandemic.
In 2020, LWVNM introduced a more extensive online resource – www.Vote411.org – enabling voters to access candidate responses for all races in Bernalillo, Torrance, Sandoval and Valencia counties. On Sept. 15, each citizen may view their own personal ballot following entry of their address to access statewide races, discussion of bond issues and judicial candidates in this online voting guide.
LWVNM is monitoring any issues which could hamper absentee ballot return or suppress voter participation in the upcoming election and will continue to be vocal when concerns regarding fair elections and voter access warrant. The League of Women Voters of Central N.M. will publish hard copies of the voter guide in the beginning of October. Use your vote. People died for it.