by Louise Chernin (She/her), GSBA President & CEO
| Mar 05, 2020
Today is International Women’s Day, the day that commemorates important contributions of women in the workplace. Created through the activities of the labor movement, it was a rallying point to advocate for women to gain the vote, hold public office, ensure the right to work and to end discrimination in the workplace. As we prepare to commemorate IWD this year, we are also about to celebrate the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage.
Women’s suffrage was achieved with the passage of the 19th
amendment, which gave women the right to vote. For years, the drive for women’s suffrage was presented mainly as the story of middle-class white women. That story began with the Seneca Falls Convention in upstate New York in 1848 and ended with the triumphant adoption of the 19th
amendment on Aug. 26, 1920, which resulted in the single largest extension of democratic voting rights
in American history.
But this story, is not the full story. It has taken decades, but we are finally recognizing that women of color - especially Black women - were excluded from the majority, white-led suffrage organizations and marginalized in the early histories of the movement - if they were mentioned at all. And after the amendment, which declared only that states could not discriminate in voting based on sex, millions of women of color were still barred from the polls. Most Black women in the South - like Black men - were blocked by poll taxes, literacy tests and other racial barriers. Native Americans and Asian immigrants were largely excluded from citizenship entirely.
Today, 100 years later, voter suppression is alive and well. Whether closing polling places, requiring ID’s or removing names of registered voters, we are facing a grave threat to the most fundamental right in a democracy, the right to vote. What can you do? Please ensure you are registered and ask others if they are registered to vote; then, remind them to vote.
In Washington, thanks to our commitment to civic engagement, it is easy to register, which can be done right up to the day you vote. We must also support candidates nationwide that will work to strike down unfair voter laws. As we prepare to vote in this next presidential election, it is critical that we ensure the leader in the White House is someone who respects the rule of law and will appoint judges who also respect the law and have a commitment to fair voting laws.
These are challenging times, it is so easy to feel down and hopeless. But, activism is the antidote to civic despair. When you surround yourself with good people who care about a creating a fully inclusive world, it lifts your spirits and energizes you to do more.
At GSBA, we know one easy way to make a difference is to make sure your bank statement reflects your values and that you are intentional in where you spend your money, by supporting women, minority, and LGBTQ, locally owned businesses. It is one sure way of keeping your community strong.
Louise Chernin (She/her)
GSBA President & CEO