Commemorating 100 years of women’s suffrage

This story was originally published in the third edition of The Lion’s Tale (December 9, 2020).

It is the year 2020 – exactly one hundred years since 1920, when the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified, giving women the right to vote. Long before they achieved this right, women had been running for office and occupying positions in the government, but that does not change the significance of this amendment to the Constitution. Giving women the right to vote and allowing for their increased participation in politics was a monumental change following decades of protest and suffragette movements. The fact that exactly a century after this historic moment America has finally voted to place a woman in a key position in the executive office should be exciting to us all. 

Kamala Harris will become the first female- and first African-American and Asian-American- to serve as vice president. There are quite a few countries where women have served in top executive positions in government, and for the first time America can join their ranks. That fact alone is exhilarating, even without considering the long history of women in America who strived towards making this possible. 

As a female that lives in America, having a female in a key position in the White House is very exciting and hopeful. I see Kamala as the embodiment of the hope that eventually, in America’s future, we might finally have somebody like me as president. Women have been able to run for office for over a century, and it is only now that we gain a female vice president. While it is disheartening to think about that aspect of the past, I can now say I am excited to look towards our future as more and more empowered women join the ranks of those in federal office. 

Women have such a long history of battling to make their voice heard in government, and it is such a huge achievement for all women in America’s past, present and future that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris succeeded in their campaign.

The long history of women running for office starts with Elizabeth Cady Stanton, a well-known women’s rights activist who chose to run for a position in the House of Representatives in 1866. She was unsuccessful in her campaign, gaining only 24 votes out of the 12,000 cast, but she sparked hope amongst other women for the political future. Not too long after Stanton came Victoria Woodhull, the first female to run for president, doing so in 1872 with the Equal Rights Party. Woodhull was of course not elected, but the mark she made in American history was not forgotten. 

The first female to be elected to federal office was Jeanette Rankin in 1916. She joined the House of Representatives as the first female to take office without succeeding a deceased husband. Previously, the only women to have entered office in American history did so by replacing their husbands once they were widowed, and even that only occurred when the widow was deemed to be suitable for the position. Rankin created a place in history for herself as the first elected congresswoman.

Belva Lockwood, Margaret Chase Smith and 18 other women (including Hillary Clinton) all ran for president. 10 more women have sought the vice-presidency, and in 2020, the eleventh female to run for vice president will be successful, a feat that will surely go down in American history. 

America has such a storied history of working towards gender equality across all aspects of society, and Kamala Harris’s success is just the culmination of those efforts. The fact that Harris was elected as the first female vice president on the one hundredth anniversary of women’s suffrage has not gone unnoticed and has made this occurrence so much more special and memorable for all of America.