Celebrating 76 Years of Women's Right to Vote

Article excerpt

Byline: Cheryl terHorst

The United States of America became a country 220 years ago. Women have been able to vote for 76 of them.

In "continuing celebration" of the 19th amendment, the League of Women Voters has released a book, "A Voice of Our Own; Leading American Women Celebrate the Right to Vote" (Jossey-Bass, $24), a compilation of 29 essays written by prominent American women from Rosalynn Carter to Martina Navratilova, excerpted here.

The book is for sale at stores and at the league's national convention, which wraps up Tuesday at the Chicago Hilton & Towers. (For the record, the book was commissioned last year, for the amendment's 75th anniversary, and the league didn't convene last year, hence the 76th-year celebration.)

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"Often when I try to explain about women's early political activity, I get a sort of surprised look. 'In our grandmothers' day,' people say to me, 'it was different. Women couldn't do any of the things that they can do now.' It is a common misconception that the women's rights movement began in the 1960s and that before that women just hung around the kitchen, barefoot, pregnant and oppressed. It is a shame that so much of women's history has been forgotten, for there is not only a rich tradition of women's political participation to be proud of but also much we can learn from women of the past."

- Lucinda Desha Robb, project director of "Our Mothers Before Us: Women in Democracy, 1789-1920," at the National Archives.

"... not until Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Coffin Mott launched the first American women's rights movement in 1848 did anyone even question citizenship based on gender. In mid-July of that year, Stanton, Mott and three other women hosted the first women's rights convention in America, in Seneca Falls, N.Y. Stanton shocked even her staunchest friends by demanding voting rights for women, along with 17 other platform planks urging property rights, educational opportunities and economic equity."

- Elisabeth Griffith, author of "In Her Own Right," a biography of Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

"Women fought for generations to win the right to vote. Women now have power at the polls and make up the majority of the voting-age population. We can elect presidents and choose Congresses. We have a right and responsibility to make our voices heard on all of the important policy debates under way in the Congress and to vote for women and men who will take very seriously the things we believe are important, holding them accountable to act on our behalf. …