Trego, Montana July 29th, 2019


I often times hear this, “ I bet you wished you lived 100 years ago.” Well, what did 100 years ago look like for a single woman, like myself?

The year 1919

The struggle had finally, FINALLY after 77 years of fighting for the right to vote, been won, just barely!

Yet Native American’ were not guaranteed the right to vote until 1962! Following the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, the battle for the vote ended for white women. For African American women the outcome was less clear.

The historical events of the suffrage movement calls out to me as it does because I realize so strongly that I couldn’t be doing what I do had not these brave women cleared my trail as they had.

Let me share this with you, it has happened more than once on my rides.

I sat on a bench outside a lovely cafe, beautiful sunny, spring morning in New Hampshire, 2015 – my return ride from the coast of Maine, the 8000 mile ride.

I sat eating a delicious omelet that I’d ordered and taken outside where I could keep an eye on Essie Pearl and Montana Spirit who were tied to the dumpster near by, packs off, resting quietly.

A tall woman, with dark short hair, 50ish suddenly appeared before me standing stoically with a determined look on her face. She was dressed modestly in pants, had a purse attached to her arm. Her husband stood behind her silent.

Are you one of them feminist,” she asked or rather demanded. “Excuse me?” I just wanted to eat quietly that morning. I replied. “Aren’t you that woman that’s ridin’ all around the country by herself, like she was a man or somethin’?” She wanted to know.

Oh my I thought, here we go.

I said, “Do you vote?” “Well yes of course I do.” The woman, shifted her weight, a bit nervous.

Do you drive a car, have your own drivers license? Do you have money in that purse of yours. And if your husband beat your would your leave him? I pursued. “Yes, Yes well so what of if?” She retorted with frustration. “You stand there in a pair of pants in front of your husband, speaking ever so freely and you call ME a feminist, looks to me like YOU’RE the feminist.” I was hungry and a bit annoyed with all this. She left with a huff.

I find this unfortunate – how we as women take for granted the rights, the freedoms and the ease with which we move in today’s world. It is a far cry from 100 years ago. “No,” Comes my reply, “I do not wish to have lived 100 years ago.” Nor shall I forget those courageous women who made my life possible, here I am a women doing long rides across this country. Yes you can call me a feminist!

Susan B Anthony, Matilda J. Gage, Elisabeth Stanton – damn they were brave!

Passed by Congress June 4, 1919, and ratified on August 18, 1920, the 19th amendment granted women the right to vote.

The 19th amendment guarantees all American women the right to vote. Achieving this milestone required a lengthy and difficult struggle; victory took decades of agitation and protest. Beginning in the mid-19th century, several generations of woman suffrage supporters lectured, wrote, marched, lobbied, and practiced civil disobedience to achieve what many Americans considered a radical change of the Constitution. Few early supporters lived to see final victory in 1920.

On May 21, 1919, the House of Representatives passed the amendment, and 2 weeks later, the Senate followed. When Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the amendment on August 18, 1920, the amendment passed its final hurdle of obtaining the agreement of three-fourths of the states. Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby certified the ratification on August 26, 1920, changing the face of the American electorate forever.

Celebrations in 1919

For more information, visit the National Archives’ Digital Classroom Teaching With Documents Lesson Plan: Woman Suffrage and the 19th Amendment