This year marks the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which secured women’s right to vote in the U.S. Constitution when it was certified on August 26, 1920. The amendment, named the Susan B. Anthony Amendment in honor of one of the suffrage movement’s most influential leaders, marked a major victory in the long fight for voting rights in the United States. Activities commemorating this watershed moment will continue throughout this year and into 2021.
We join all Americans in celebrating the centennial of the 19th Amendment’s ratification, which led to the single largest expansion of voting rights in the nation’s history. But it is important to remember that the achievement represents more than just a moment in time. Instead, it is a benchmark shaped by generations. With roots running through the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention attended by the most prominent women’s rights advocates of the day, the history of women’s suffrage demonstrates the diversity, tenacity, and dedication to civic engagement that is critical to our nation.
Together, activists as well-known as Susan B. Anthony, or those lesser known like Mexican-American journalist Jovita Idár or African American poet Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, devoted decades to speaking up and creating change. Countless women and men contributed to this movement, and our celebration today cannot be bound by a single day, a single individual, or a single generation. Instead, it is a sum of all parts: the unique perspectives, actions, and individuals who contributed to a greater whole. These achievements represent the continuation of the American experiment as our forebearers pushed for equality under the law. Spanning more than seven decades, the fight for women’s right to vote encompasses a vast and significant period of American history. Herstory is our story. Our American story.
Through the quest to enfranchise women, we see the ups and downs, the dead ends and false starts, the alliances and fissures of not just a movement, but our nation’s journey toward a more perfect union. We see a common humanity brought together to enact change. But we also see self-interest and discord as others were excluded or overlooked. The journey of the suffragists proved long and difficult and it continued beyond 1920, inspiring others to claim their right to vote, overcome barriers to freedom, and seek liberty and justice.
Over the past month, many have also celebrated their Hispanic heritage and shared similar stories of resilience and enduring hope. As two Latina women, both having served as U.S. Treasurer in two different administrations, we are the legacy of generations of political activism and community engagement. For us, the suffrage centennial intersects with Hispanic Heritage Month, bringing grateful reminders of the sacrifices and triumphs that shape our past and a renewed commitment to realizing the promise of America for future generations.
The cycle of commemoration encourages the constructive reflection and dialogue so vital to the American experiment. As we begin to observe the 250th anniversary of the United States, Herstory must be a foundational element of how we celebrate our nation’s semiquincentennial. The unique voices we have heard, the triumphs we have celebrated, and the struggles we have uncovered during the suffrage centennial all contribute to a better understanding of who we are as a nation. Each story is its own individual strand in our nation’s history and, when woven together, they make up our larger American tapestry. This warp and weave holds us together as a community of individuals, working toward a shared vision of a more perfect United States.
Rosie Rios was the 43rd Treasurer of the United States and a Visiting Scholar at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University. She is a member of the U.S. Semiquincentennial Commission, the federal body created by Congress to plan America’s 250th birthday in 2026.
Jovita Carranza, Cabinet-Member and highest-ranking Latina woman serving in the Trump Administration, is Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration, 44th Treasurer of the United States and a member of the Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission, appointed by the President of the United States.