Election Day is here—and the onslaught of political ads, tireless social media campaigns, and general pleas to vote & raise money have reached their boiling points. By this point, while you’re likely experiencing some election fatigue, it’s important to recognize the fact that voting is a privilege, fought long and hard for by our powerful female predecessors. Let’s draw inspiration from their sacrifices and their activism when it comes time to visit the polls.
Susan B. Anthony
Perhaps one of the names most commonly associated with women’s suffrage, Susan B. Anthony was not only a huge advocate for women’s right to vote, but was also an impassioned advocate for the end of slavery.
In a time in which it was improper for women to speak publicly, Anthony gave countless speeches against slavery and demanding that women be granted the right to vote. She risked being arrested at every speech, and was arrested in 1872 for voting. Her ‘crime’ resulted in a trial and a $100 fine, which she refused to pay—an act that ultimately brought nationwide attention to the women’s suffrage movement.
Anthony died in 1906, prior to the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920, which finally granted women the right to vote.
Ida B. Wells
When it comes to women’s suffrage, specifically as the movement relates to women of color, Ida B. Wells is awe-inspiring. Not only was she a co-founder of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), but she was also a major anti-lynch crusader, utilizing the power of journalism to shed light on the long-overlooked epidemic rampaging through the south.
Wells also ran an unprecedented campaign for state senator in 1929 and 1930. While she ultimately didn’t win the campaign, her courage paved the way for other women and people of color to run for office.
Mabel Ping-Gua Lee
Mabel Ping-Gua Lee may not be a household name, but her contributions to women’s suffrage, specifically as they relate to Chinese-Americans, are unmatched.
Lee led numerous, pro-suffrage marches in New York City starting at the age of 16. Intelligent beyond her years, Lee would go on to attend Barnard College as a result of Columbia University’s refusal to admit women into their program. Later in life, she would be the first Chinese woman to attend Columbia University and receive her PhD in economics.
Beyond her academics, Lee continued the fight for equal rights beyond women’s right to vote in 1920. The Chinese Exclusion Act prohibited Chinese women from voting due to lack of citizenship, as Chinese immigrants were not allowed to become U.S. citizens. Lee advocated for equal rights despite this act, and the law was ultimately removed in 1943.
Sojourner Truth was born into slavery in 1797 and remained a slave until she escaped in 1827 with her daughter. Following the escape, she sued for the freedom of her son, an act that would make her one of the first black women to win a court case against a white man.
While she rose to fame for her speeches and written works, it was really her work during the Civil War that showcased her passion for suffrage and equality. She not only recruited African American men to fight in the Union Army, but she also taught former slaves domestic skills, helped homeless African Americans obtain jobs, and counseled African American soldiers fighting in the war. Through all of her efforts, Truth passionately fought for equality by lobbying against segregation, even in the presence of Abraham Lincoln.
While you’re likely sick of hearing about this year’s election, the passion of these amazing women should be channeled into more female voter turnout, more female empowerment, and for more confidence in what women can and will achieve!