CEO Message: Celebrating the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment
This week we are marking the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, which guarantees women the constitutional right to vote — one of the most important political, legal and socially significant moments of the 20th century.
The passage of the 19th Amendment came after a protracted and difficult struggle that had begun more than seven decades earlier. Initially introduced to Congress in 1878, numerous attempts to pass a women's suffrage amendment failed before passing the U.S. Congress in the spring of 1919, when it was submitted to the states for ratification. Tennessee was the last of the necessary 36 states to ratify it, on August 18, 1920, and the 19th Amendment's adoption was certified on August 26, 1920, a day now celebrated as “Women’s Equality Day.”
The amendment didn’t “give women the vote,” as it is sometimes characterized. Prior to its passage, 15 states had already done so. Wyoming was the first in 1869. Washington State amended our constitution to grant women voting rights in 1910. What the 19th Amendment did was guarantee that right for women throughout the United States.
It was a powerful moment in the struggle for the recognition of gender equality, and woman’s suffrage corresponded with increased emphasis on social issues, such as child labor laws and women’s health issues. There are studies that suggest that resources for hospitals and charities corresponded with women’s suffrage, and that child mortality dropped significantly, while the number of children who stayed in school went up.
Across the decades of struggle that finally led to the amendment, suffragettes were among those who were supporters of racial justice, the temperance movement to control the impact of alcohol, human rights and the labor movement. While working together to secure the vote, women also helped define American democracy and the meaning of citizenship.
The suffragettes helped shine the light of inquiry on class inequity, racial injustice and the plight of the poor. They did not quit. And we are a better people because of their vision and persistence.
They are still inspiring us today, and we mark this 100th anniversary with gratitude, with hope and with knowledge that there is still so much that needs to be done if we are to be the inclusive democracy that they worked for and dreamed of helping to create.
About The Author
Bill Robertson has served as MultiCare's President and CEO since May 2014. He came from Adventist HealthCare, Inc., based in Gaithersburg, Maryland. Prior to Adventist, Robertson served as CEO of Shawnee Mission Medical Center near Kansas City, Kansas. More stories by this author