Women’s Votes Matter


The Lady Long Rider Suffragist Tour

The Tour had originally been planned for July and August this year, but like so many things in the year of Covid, the tour had to be cancelled. Barbara Moore, Sarah Wilson, JJ Prill, and Lisa DeMasi had all contributed much time to the event.

Starting in Montana, we (Montana Spirit, Little Liska Pearl, and I) would have traveled eastward making many stops, eventually making our way to Seneca Falls, Rochester, Fayetteville, and many other towns, events, and parades. Ford Motor Company had provided a new pick-up truck. Barbara had made arrangements for a living-quarters horse trailer. The International Museum of the Horse at the Kentucky Horse Park would have stayed connected to us with an interactive display. So much to celebrate, so many historical figures to thank, so many women to encourage.

I want to thank all of you who put much time and energy into the event. Barbara Moore truly was the master mind! She pulled strings, moved mountains, and kept at it until we had a route, stops, and vehicles for the celebration tour.

These photos will have to do. Discouraging and disappointing as it all is, it does not mean we can stop! We can not stop reminding women of the date we now celebrate, 1920, the year women finally, finally took the right to vote into their own hands. Once hundred years ago! And to think it took 77 years, from the Seneca Falls, NY convention in 1848 to 1920 when the 19th Amendment was ratified.

Let’s take a look at a married woman’s conditions in 19th century America.

First of all, a woman had no autonomy over her own body. A married woman had no claim to personal possessions or money, including anything she brought into the marriage or any money she might somehow have earned. She also had no claims of custody of her children in the unlikely case of divorce. In fact, her children could be taken from her by her husband at any time–for any reason, or for no reason at all. She could not sign a contract, sit on a jury, bring a lawsuit, or leave her possessions to anyone but her husband upon her death.

Where did they get such ideas?

Early suffragists were influenced by Quaker morals which advocated for women’s equality, and also by tribes of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy/Nation who gave women agency in property, power, and the right to vote in tribal decision making.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, and later Matilda Joselyn Gage were greatly influenced by both Quaker philosophy and the freedom they saw first hand in tribal law. When the Seneca Falls Convention took place in 1848 the idea of women voting was preposterous!

Courage and perseverance prevailed.

Inez Mullholland, 1915?

As we commemorate the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, we must remember equitable access to the ballot box did not happen for all. Racism played a role, as only white women would have that privilege. Black women in particular, suffered disproportionately from voter suppression tactics. Black women and all other women of color did not receive voting rights until half a century later, even though they were well organized and played an important role in the decades of struggles for women’s suffrage.

To name just a few of these women of color: African American women such as the writer and orator Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, the community organizer Juno Frankie Pierce, and the journalists Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin and Ida B. Wells-Barnett, who championed both suffrage and civil rights; Native American women such as Susette La Flesche Tibble and Zitkala-Sa; queer women like the poet Angelina Weld Grimké and the educator Mary Burrill; Latina women like Jovita Idár, who protected her family’s newspaper and the rights of Mexican Americans; and Asian American women like Mabel Ping-Hua Lee, who led thousands of marchers in a 1912 suffrage parade in New York.

They all fought for the vote as part of a broader struggle for equality, but their stories aren’t nearly as well known as they should be. Revisit your history and a new, more complete story will emerge for you.

The 19th Amendment was not an end but a beginning. After its ratification, it would take four more years for many Native Americans even to be considered citizens with voting rights in this country, and for some Asian Americans it would take even longer. Many Black women, while possessing suffrage on paper, could not freely exercise that right until 1965, when the Voting Rights Act barred racially discriminatory voting practices, such as literacy tests. Disenfranchisement at the polls, of course, continues today.

Let us join hands in solidarity as we celebrate the passing of these monumental changes that women over the years and the women of today continue to fight for. VOTE, express yourselves with your VOTE. The importance can not be understated. PLEASE VOTE!