The League of Women Voters of Hays County will celebrate Women’s Equality Day on Thursday, August 25, 6 p.m. at the Hays County Courthouse.
Women’s Equality Day is actually Friday, August 26, the anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The ratification marked the greatest victory of the women’s suffrage movement—women achieving full voting rights.
Kay Reed Arnold, a historian of Texas Women Suffragists, will discuss the 1915-1917 grassroots suffrage efforts led by Texas women to impeach Governor James Edward Ferguson. In 1918 under Governor William H. Hobby’s first term, Texas women gained primary suffrage.
Arnold is a sixth-generation Texan and a professor at St. Edward’s University in Austin. She teaches courses about women in American and Texan history. Arnold is a board member of the Ruthe Winegarten Memorial Foundation which operates the Women in Texas History project.
Suffrage, also known as political franchise, is the right to vote in local, state, and federal elections. Before this Amendment, women did not have the right to vote and thus were unable to influence legislation reform. As early as 1848, Susan B. Anthony and other women’s rights pioneers, were known as suffragists. They circulated petitions and lobbied Congress to pass a Constitutional Amendment to empower women.
Two national organizations in the 1910’s fought for women’s suffrage. One group led by Dr. Anna Howard Shaw and Carrie Chapman Catt, worked legislatively (NAWSA). Another group of women activists led by Alice Paul picketed the White House and Congress. Paul and her colleagues were arrested and imprisoned. In 1919, the 19th Amendment was passed by Congress.
Texas was the ninth state in the Union and the first in the South to ratify the amendment. With 36 of 48 states needed for ratification, the final vote came down to Tennessee Representative Harry T. Burn. Originally voting “nay,” he received a letter from his mother urging him to vote in favor of the Amendment. As a result of Burn’s vote change, the 19th Amendment was ratified into law in 1920.
In 1971, August 26 was designated by a joint resolution of Congress as Women’s Equality Day to recognize the promoting of equality for women.
Citizens can celebrate the historic addition of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution by attending this event and joining the League to work for further advances in voting rights.