By Rep. Anita Kulik
Usually I use this column to tell you about things happening in Harrisburg. However, I feel it is important to recognize a momentous occasion. August 18 marks the 100 Anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution. On that date, Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the Amendment, thus providing the necessary two-thirds votes to ratify the Amendment.
On Aug. 26, the Amendment was formally entered by the Secretary of State. It was just a short 100 years ago that women took the right to vote.
Most would term it as women were “given” the right to vote. But we know from our history that no right contained in our Constitution was just given. All the rights we cherish were fought for, and no less was our right to vote.
Our Constitution was adopted in 1787 as a living document that through the Amendment process could change over time. It seems incredible that It took until 1920, with the country going through two century turns, to get the vote to women.
Back in the 1700s women such as Abigail Adams cautioned our officials to not forget the women. Prior to 1920, women were on the battlefields any time the nation fought for its freedom — whether during the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, or World War 1.
Women were consistently part of the American workforce, including laboring six long days a week for “penny wages” during the Industrial Revolution.
It is nothing short of baffling, then, that it took until 1920, a time that is considered part of our modern era, for women to be able to cast a ballot in a national election. The brave women who fought this battle suffered shaming, abuse, and imprisonment all for the ability to have a voice in their government.
I remember as a child watching the news with stories of the evolving “women’s rights” movement. Mainstream television shows were catching up with the times having series portraying strong independent women. I did not realize the impact of any of this until I was an adult myself entering the workforce. I can look back now and clearly see the impact these women had on all those that followed them.
My parents were children of immigrants. Both were college educated, my mother being the first in her family to get a degree. Mom taught school while I was growing up. My father, a university professor, always understood how important it was to educate women. And I can look to all the women I have known in my family, from my grandmothers and aunts to my cousins and look to how they all took on their roles in life with compassion and conviction.
With so many elected positions on all levels in the state, the number of elected women remains low.
When I served on a local board of commissioners, I was the only woman. Though several came before me, when I was elected to the State House, I was the only woman in the Allegheny County Delegation.
Within one cycle though that changed, and I now proudly serve alongside five more women legislators from our county.
The ability to vote is surely our most prized right. It allows us to maintain all other rights and keep check on our governing bodies. Celebrating the 19th Amendment is one step to remembering how certain rights belong to all citizens.