SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) – Wednesday marked the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment and the end of the struggle to secure the right to vote for women. In many ways. it was a second Revolutionary War and it may have changed this country just as profoundly as the first.
It was a watershed moment for America but it didn’t come easily.
“I think it’s also important to remember that women weren’t given the right to vote they fought for it,” said Dr. Amanda Tewes, an interviewer/historian for UC Berkeley’s Women in Politics Oral History Project.
At the turn of the century, women fighting for suffrage were mocked, ridiculed and even jailed. In California, women had actually won the right to vote nine years earlier, in 1911. But the election was a tight one, with women’s suffrage winning by less than 4,000 votes statewide. When it became the law of the land for the entire country, it changed things for women and not just at the polling place.
“It was a really important moment in American history,” Dr. Tewes said. “It marked not just the fact that women were able to vote finally, but it also denoted their full participation in the American political project.
Women voting led to women becoming office holders, as well, a difficult path that San Francisco Mayor London Breed spoke about in a public discussion Wednesday.
“This celebration should remind us about those people and what they sacrificed and that we have an obligation to not only exercise our right to vote ourselves, but to make sure that we are lifting up others to do the same,” said Mayor Breed.
Most say the 100-year journey isn’t complete, that the next step is elevating more women of color. But, as we now see women, including San Francisco’s own Kamala Harris, regularly competing for a place in the highest reaches of power, it might be okay to take a moment to pause, look back and marvel at how far the nation and its women have come.