Susan B. Anthony, a powerful voice in the women’s suffrage movement, once said: “There will never be complete equality until women themselves help to make laws and elect lawmakers.” She said that almost 100 years ago. It was a hopeful statement on behalf of women. Today, we are sure to her delight, it is happening throughout our county.
This is evidenced by the last five midterm elections dating back to 1998, in which women have turned out to vote at higher rates than men. Over half of women, 55% who were eligible to vote, cast ballots in the 2018 midterms in November, compared to 51.8% of men, according to Pew Research Center using newly released data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
The 2018 midterm elections were a watershed moment for women in politics as more women were elected to Congress than ever before. The 2018 election has been referred to as the “The Year of the Woman,” thanks to a record number of women who ran for the Senate, House of Representatives, governorships and other offices across the country. We’ve come a long way, yet we still have a long way to go. Women make up only 20% of Congress, 25% of state legislators, 12% of governors and 22% of mayors, according to Ignite.
Fortunately, momentum is building. Women are stepping up in numbers unseen throughout the past 100 years. There is a notable shift in the political landscape of voice. In response to Susan B. Anthony’s statement, all we can say is ‘it is about time!”
In addition, having multiple women in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary has already changed the discourse of the election. In the first two debates, candidates talked about abortion access, the Equal Rights Amendment and the wage gap. Women’s interests, in areas frequently prioritized by female voters, including health care, paid leave, civil rights and issues affecting families have been in the forefront as never before. But it’s reasonable to assume that without more women voting and represented in office, the issues women care about most may be swept aside.
As women candidates continue to emerge and women voters turn out in increasing numbers, we will experience a shift from a historically male dominated political arena to a more balanced representation between men and women in leadership. We are witnessing that today and it looks to grow as we move into the future.
The Suffragette movement was the first critical and courageous step in the quest for women’s equality
It is so easy to forget that Kentucky women like Laura Clay, Mary McDowell Breckinridge, Dr. Mary Britton, Mary Barr Clay, Josephine Henry and others from the Lexington area were nationally recognized for their leadership in the suffragette movement. Others across the country dedicated their lives to assuring equal rights for all women. We owe our thanks to those women.
That is why a campaign recognizing our women’s historical impact and significance is underway. This initiative will celebrate the 100th anniversary in 2020 of the 19th amendment, giving women the right to vote. The “Breaking the Bronze Ceiling” goal is to have a public art display that reflects the perseverance of women, not only from the suffragette movement in the 1920’s, but also honoring the many contributions of women over time and history.
The 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment celebrates the ratification of the US Constitution on August 18th, 1920. It declares that “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.” On Nov. 2 of that year, more than 8 million women across the United States voted in elections for the first time.
“Breaking the Bronze Ceiling” is not just about a monument recognizing women. It is much bigger than that. It educates and reminds our daughters, sons, our grandchildren and generations to come, that women have played a pivotal and historical role in the evolution of our country. Women deserve credit for the role they have played and will continue to play as we deliberately move into leadership roles that our suffragettes could only have imagined and fought for 100 years ago.
We demanded the right to vote. Let’s not be forgotten; let’s exercise our right to vote and continue to change the equation.
Jennifer Mossotti and Kathy Plomin are members of the Urban County Council and involved in the Breaking the Bronze Ceiling Committee.