Progress made, but more is needed

Published 9:33 am Wednesday, August 22, 2018

This week marks the 98th anniversary of the state of Tennessee ratifying the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution.

Bringing the total states to the needed 36 to approve the amendment, passed by Congress the previous year, the move made the guarantee for women to vote the law of the land.

The passage was the culmination of decades of activism by suffrage activists, such as Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucy Stone and Alice Paul.

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The movement’s roots in the U.S. dated back as far as the lead-up to the Civil War, when many suffrage activists began their work partnering with those seeking to abolish slavery.

Jeannette Rankin, of Montana, had been the first woman elected to a federal office when she took her seat in the U.S. House three years earlier (Women could run for office prior to 1920 in some areas, but not vote in those same elections, as was the case when Victoria Woodhull was the first woman to run for president in 1872 on a third party ticket).

With the addition of women to the voter rolls, the prospects for more women to hold office increased.

However, progress in this area occurred far slower than it should have. It would be another 13 years until a woman was elected to the Senate for the first time. Today, 20 women hold seats in that chamber, representing 20 percent of the body, hardly comparable to the 50.8 percent of the population reported by the most recent U.S. Census.

Of the dozens of major Democratic and Republican candidates to appear on the top four ballot spots in the 25 presidential elections since the amendment’s adoption, women account for only three names — Democrat Hillary Clinton, the first woman to be nominated for president by a major party in 2016 and Democrat Geraldine Ferraro and Republican Sarah  Palin, who landed vice presidential nods in 1984 and 2008.

Given the fact that women comprise a majority of the population, this disparity should not stand. Issues decided by lawmakers affect all citizens of all races and gender.

Matters such as access to education, pay disparities, reproductive health, economic empowerment and others, which impact women far more than men, should not be left in the hands of majority male legislative bodies.

Here in Lawrence County, there are a number of women holding prominent positions.
In 2015, Katrina Keith became the first woman to be elected as Ironton’s mayor, while DeAnna Holliday won election the following year, becoming the second woman to serve on the Lawrence County Commission.

Judge Marie Hoover rules on the 4th District Court of Appeals, while, on city and village councils, leaders include Beth Ann Rist in Ironton, Diane Wise and Kimberly McKnight in Coal Grove, Mary Cogan and Marlene Arthur in South Point and Pamela Legg, Brenda Chapman and Margie Whitley in Proctorville.

We salute these trailblazers, yet, at the same time, recognize that they represent only a small fraction of the offices around the county. Progress has been made, but there is still along way to go until we have a truly representative government for all. There is no shortage of qualified women in Lawrence County and our nation who deserve to hold office.

It is our hope that, as the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment comes in 2020, we see more women announce their candidacies, receive nominations by their parties, receive fair consideration from voters and get elected.