During the 2018 mid-term elections, more than half of women (55%) who were eligible to vote cast ballots, according to the Pew Research Center. Around 51.8% of eligible male voters turned out.
As the 2020 election moves into high gear with primaries happening, women continue to be a much sought-after voting bloc.
That was not always the case.
The women’s rights movement began in 1848 with activists working together to raise awareness and lobby the government to allow women the right to vote. The suffragists faced years of opposition, defeats, marches and demonstrations before the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was passed in 1919, granting women the right to vote. Sent to the states for ratification, the amendment was certified by the U.S. secretary of state on Aug. 26, 1920.
Maryland, however, rejected the 19th Amendment on Feb. 24, 1920, and did not formally ratify until March 29, 1941, more than 20 years later.
To help celebrate the centennial anniversary, several groups will be hosting events across the state.
On Aug. 26, Women’s Equality Day, the Maryland Commission for Women will be hosting the 2020 Women’s Centennial Summit in Annapolis. The event, designed to celebrate, commemorate and advocate, will feature the Hon. Adrienne Jones, speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates, as well as seminars focusing on women’s leadership in different areas.
“It is such a historic event,” said Judith Vaughan-Prather, the commission’s executive director. “It was such a hard-fought battle. A lot of people don’t realize how hard the suffragists had to work and what they sacrificed in order to gain the right to vote for women. … It is just important that we remember how (vital) everyone’s vote is when you are talking about democracy and how (crucial) it is for women to also have a voice.”
The idea for the summit came from the commission’s 2018 Voices of Maryland Women’s Listening Tour. Members traveled around the state to hold a series of 19 public forums asking women about the issues they faced daily. The top five issues they found were too few women in leadership positions, access to affordable child care, domestic violence/sexual assault, paid time off for extended parental and medical leave and addiction issues.
Vaughan-Prather said the commission thought the summit could discuss ways to empower women and address the leadership need.
“I think we are hoping (participants) will come away with a renewed appreciation of how hard-fought our rights were and a renewed dedication to continuing the progress until women and girls really achieve full equity,” she said. “There are still quite a number of areas where women have not yet reached parity. Women still earn on the average quite a bit less than men. They vote more often but we are underrepresented in almost every legislature especially at the national level. It is important that women recognize that we still have work to do to make our voices heard.”
The Women’s Equality Day 2020 Celebration Coalition is working on statewide simultaneous events to be held on Aug. 22 acknowledging the anniversary. Organizer Christine R. Valeriann notes their campaign aims to have events that are nonpartisan, family-friendly and publicly accessible in at least half the counties in the state. Thus far, events are set to take place in Baltimore city, Garrett and Worcester counties, with discussions being held with additional counties and organizations to add more events.
“When you look back and look at the big picture, we are really making a statement that women are celebrating the anniversary and showing the power of their voice and their vote from the Eastern Shore to the western mountains of Maryland,” Valeriann said.
Some of the events taking place as a part of the centennial are fee-based or could be geared toward a limited activist audience. The coalition decided to make the events free and open to everyone.
“We are specifically targeting women that aren’t even aware that this is a benchmark, landmark 100th anniversary year,” Valeriann said. “(Women) that normally would not celebrate such a thing or go to any type of activist (event). That either don’t vote, aren’t registered to vote or don’t vote regularly or don’t think their vote is important or can’t pay for a fee or can’t pay for child care to go to something. … We are really targeting an audience that is very broad, very diverse and the idea is to have a no-barriers celebration.”
The events will feature food, including bring-your-own, potluck and women- owned food trucks as well as family-friendly entertainment, networking, information and exhibits from a wide range of organizations.
“It’s a celebration that belongs to everyone and I want to give everyone (access) regardless of where they live, regardless of their economic status, their race, their education and their social class,” Valeriann said. “Everyone should have an opportunity to celebrate and enjoy and revel in their power.”
The suffragists’ movement remains timely today, according to Valeriann, because women continue to not be recognized by the U.S. Constitution. The Equal Rights Amendment, giving rights to all American citizens regardless of sex, was first introduced by suffragists in 1923. Passing the House of Representatives in 1971 and the U.S. Senate in 1972, 35 out of the needed 38 states ratified the amendment by the deadline of 1979. (Maryland ratified in 1972.) Five states later revoked their ratifications. Movements have been made to extend the deadline and three additional states have ratified the amendment with the most recent being Virginia in January but legal uncertainty remains.
“It is important to continue that momentum and finish what the suffragists started because they started this and we want to finish it,” Valeriann said.
2020 Events celebrating the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment
Dedication and unveiling Goucher College Suffrage marker on the National Votes for Women Trail.
Women of the World Festival presented by Notre Dame of Maryland University. The Columbus Center in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.
Frederick Elected Women at Work. Photography exhibit with images by
Frederick County Public School photography students. Ceresville Mansion, 8529 Liberty Road, Frederick MD, 21701.
The Frederick County Commission for Women 2020 Raving about Women Party.
Maryland Women’s Hall of Fame and Women of Tomorrow Awards Ceremony. Miller Senate Office Building, 11 Bladen Street, Annapolis, MD 21401.
Year of the Woman 2020 – Historic Aerial Photo, downtown Mount Airy.
The Daily Record’s Women’s Leadership Summit. Towson University.
Women’s Suffrage 100th Anniversary. Silver Spring Civic Building, 1 Veterans Pl, Silver Spring, MD 20910.
WED2020 Free public 2020 anniversary celebrations in the parks and public spaces across the state.
2020 Women’s Centennial Summit. Maryland House Office Building, 6 Bladen Street, Annapolis, MD 21401.
Maryland Commission for Women website
|This article is featured in The Daily Record’s Women Who Lead: A Woman’s Guide To Business. The mission of the Women Who Lead (formerly Path to Excellence) magazine is to give our readers the opportunity to meet successful women of all ages, backgrounds and beliefs and learn how they define success. Read more from Women Who Lead.|