Shanti Emerson: Celebrate those who fought for this day |

Shanti Emerson: Celebrate those who fought for this day

What a momentous occasion it was at the state capitol in Nashville, Tennessee on Aug. 18, 1920, when, at the last moment, state Sen. Harry Burn changed his mind at the request of his mother and voted to ratify the 19th Amendment, which states 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.”

Carrie Chapman Catt who had worked on this project for decades, heard the yells from her hotel room and realized that after 76 years, women finally got the right to vote.

Yes, it took 76 years, longer than the Revolutionary or Civil Wars. The women who had started the movement were in their graves as younger generations took it on. Women who marched in the streets were sometimes hit in the head with flying objects. Some were beaten and arrested. Others made inroads into the rooms of power by using tact and persuasion to guide this amendment to its final passage.

This ratification was well after African American men were granted the right to vote by the 15th Amendment in 1870.

It seems so logical today that women can vote, but I take my hat off to the pacifists and radicals who did whatever they could to insure that you and I can participate in government.

The road was rough! In the beginning of the struggles, not only did most men not want women to vote, but there were many women who also resisted.

Unfortunately, there is a long history of women repressing other women. Even in ancient mythology, Athena voted to have Hestia, goddess of the hearth, taken out of the Mt. Olympus pantheon and replaced by Dionysus, god of wine. We will never forget the Equal Rights Amendment being derailed by Phyllis Schlafly.

In 2016, it looked as if at last America would have a woman president with Hillary Clinton. Although she beat her opponent by almost 3 million votes, she lost to a man who boasts of his sexual conquests . Women of color stood by Hillary, while white women gave her only 39% of their vote compared to 54% to Donald Trump.

It seems so logical today that women can vote, but I take my hat off to the pacifists and radicals who did whatever they could to insure that you and I can participate in government.

Here is a bit of history and the names of some of those persistent brilliant women who spent their lives working on this basic freedom.

Abigail Adams, wife of the second president and mother of the sixth, wrote that women “will not hold ourselves bound by any laws which we have no voice,” after 13 states banned women from voting.

In 1848 in Seneca Falls, New York, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, along with 60 other women and 32 men, signed and issued the Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions, modeled on the Declaration of Independence, which called for equal treatment of women and men under the law and voting rights for women. Former slave Frederick Douglass addressed the crowd, showing unity between the anti-slavery and women’s rights movements. Two years later, the first National Women’s Rights Convention was held in Worcester, Massachusetts. and attracted more than 1,000 participants.

In 1866, the American Equal Rights Association was founded by Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Martha Coffin Pelham Wright and Ernestine Rose.

In 1887, Kansas permitted women to vote in municipal elections. When Wyoming joined the Union in 1890, it became the first state to permit women the right to vote in all elections followed in 1893 by Colorado then by Utah and Idaho in 1896; Washington state in 1910; California in 1911; Oregon, Kansas and Arizona in 1912; Illinois in 1913; Montana and Nevada in 1914; New York in 1917; Michigan, South Dakota and Oklahoma in 1918.

On Aug. 18, 1920, the 19th Amendment is ratified at last by the votes of men!

Today Nevada County is led by women who were elected or appointed. Here is a list of Nevada County VIPs. (I apologize to those I inadvertently left out): Board of Supervisors Chair Heidi Hall, District 4 Supervisor Susan Hoek, County CEO Alison Lehman, Assistant CEO Mali Dyck, Sheriff Shannan Moon, Undersheriff Alicia Burget, Grass Valley Mayor Lisa Swarthout, Nevada City Mayor Erin Minett, Nevada Irrigation Board President Ricki Heck, Auditor Controller Marcia Salter, Treasurer Tax Collector Tina Vernon, Assessor Sue Horne, County Counsel Katherine Elliott, Public Defender Keri Klein, Grass Valley Chamber CEO Robin Galvan Davies, Grass Valley Chamber Chair Joy Porter, Nevada City Chamber CEO Cathy Whittlesey (until her position was eliminated due to COVID-19 financial constraints).

So let’s celebrate this day as best we can during these trying times and be glad that we can vote due to the thousands of women who fought for that right and the men who supported them.

Most of all, vote in November!

Shanti Emerson is a Nevada County resident and a member of The Union Editorial Board. Her opinions are her own and do not necessarily reflect those of the board or its members. She can be reached at

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