it was not easy to be a suffrage activist and it’s an epic fight it didn’t end in 1920.
We can commemorate this this wonderful anniversary but it’s not the end of the story we might be misled to think that this is sort of happenstance or it’s all coveted but voter suppression in the U.S has a long and disturbing history a century later where we’re reliving it these were ordinary women these are grassroots women these are teachers factory workers and farm girls they become activists when it’s really dangerous for them to be but black women had a whole movement of their own but their feminism is defined in a completely different way.
Their feminism must embrace both the issue of race and gender they can’t separate the two because you’ll be splitting them in half what black women know is that no 19th amendment will get to them to the polls if intimidation and violence continued to be the order of the day in the american south and that proves to be precisely what happens after 1920.
The 1920 election was coming up in the fall they knew if they didn’t get it then um that it might not happen seeing how the suffragists had to handle the pandemic they had to change and and do things by mail and the country was also swinging away from progressivism it was becoming more conservative and sufferer just saw that so they play hardball that’s sort of what we saw happening this summer across the nation with demonstrations.
Alice paul and and her compatriots are really masters of of political theater and they are prepared to pay a price personally physically to stage that theater and so she leads them in picketing the white house in demonstrations every day in lafayette park they’re arrested they are tortured in prison hundreds of women are imprisoned for asking for the vote what will happen is the 19th amendment does give the vote to all women citizens the problem is it will be undermined black women technically could vote but in reality they couldn’t because of that dirty two-letter word voter suppression black women even in 1919 right they’re already organizing to understand literacy tests and poll taxes and that’s a sure sign to U.S
That they understood the limits of the 19th amendment the clan will organize itself and it will target black women their leaders their institutions deliberately to keep black women from the pulse black women and men will be fighting for another four and a half decades for asian american women and for native american women they are not considered citizens in 1920.
So the 19th amendment does not help them until that gets remedied and that takes decades more they were forced to wait in line long hours and then the polls would close does it sound familiar to you that is not so different right than 1920 in the sense that black americans are working on multiple fronts people who are disenfranchised are going to not only fight for the vote they’re going to make other kinds of politics in order to secure the kind of influence and resources and access they think they are due a century later we’re reliving it it’s a question of equality and representation black americans were asked to risk their lives to try and vote they were required to risk their lives.
Many things including voting rights it’s a deeply disturbing parallel that people are going to be asked to risk their lives to vote in november and black americans it turns out are going to disproportionately bear the risk of that this is the real stress test for democracy so it’s time to get those banners out and those sashes to say that as a nation voting rights is crucially important.