It’s an American milestone that’s worth celebrating.
By Lindsay Tygart • JBA Board of Governors
In December, I celebrated a milestone birthday: The big 4-0.
And while I had a month’s worth of dinners, happy hours, lunches and parties with family and dear friends, there is a more important milestone coming up and it deserves a far greater and more elaborate celebration than it seems to receive each year.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which gave women in this country the right to vote.
Anyone who knows me knows I am passionate about the issues women face, both professionally and domestically. This is true even more so now that I am raising two little warrior women.
When I think about my middle and high school U.S. history classes, and what I learned about suffrage and women fighting to obtain the right to vote, my mind is a complete blank.
In full disclosure, I very well may have no memory because, as I was sitting in class, I was thinking about the test I didn’t study for next period, or what my plans were for the weekend.
But, in any event, I have clear and distinct memories of learning about the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the Louisiana Purchase (yawn), the Civil War, the Battle of Gettysburg, our Supreme Court’s decision in Plessy v. Ferguson and the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
Each marks a monumental event in our nation’s history that had a role in shaping the future of this country – OK, maybe not the Louisiana Purchase – but, most certainly, the others.
The point is that the women’s movement often does not get the attention it rightfully deserves.
Before everyone breaks out their laptops to write letters to the editor, understand that I am not minimizing the importance of any of the aforementioned events. I am simply saying that the facts and circumstances surrounding the passage of the 19th Amendment should get a little face time as well.
The women’s rights movement was started in 1848, in part, by Elizabeth Cady Stanton. She is one of my favorite historical figures because she was strong and mouthy. She wasn’t afraid to say what was on her mind, whether it was a popular public opinion or not. And with her, it was most of the time not.
Cady Stanton got married in 1840 and she requested the minister remove the phrase “promise to obey” from her wedding vows. When the minister asked why, she was quoted as saying “I obstinately refuse to obey one with whom I am entering into an equal relation.”
At the start of the women’s movement, Cady Stanton was the mother of four children and lived in upstate New York. She, and more than 300 people, attended the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848. It was there that Cady Stanton read the “Declaration of Sentiments,” which was modeled after the Declaration of Independence.
And it was there, for the first time, that she proclaimed men and women are created equal. She proposed, among other things, a highly controversial resolution demanding voting rights for women.
Thereafter, strong, passionate women, including Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Lucy Stone, Sojourner Truth, Ida B. Wells, Harriet Tubman and Lucretia Mott fought for more than 70 years to secure the right to vote for women.
I am on a constant crusade to raise my two girls to be brave and bold and to stand up and fight for what is right, even when it isn’t easy or popular. I have found that one of the best ways to teach them about female empowerment is to show them and teach them about other amazing women.
Our bedtime routine includes reading stories about Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Frida Kahlo, Rosa Parks and Cleopatra. And we watch Disney’s Moana on a repeating reel.
So, this year, we decided to honor the milestone birthday of the 19th Amendment, just as mommy celebrated her 40th, with a party. Silas, our boisterous 2-year-old, was just thrilled to see cake, but Salem, our very inquisitive 4-year-old, wanted details about what we were celebrating and why.
I explained to her that a long time ago girls didn’t have the same rights and opportunities and they weren’t allowed to do the same things as boys, just because they were girls. She thought for a minute, looked up at me and scrunched up her nose and said “That’s silly. Girls are the best.”
Yes, my angel, we sure are.
Lindsay Tygart is an attorney-mom at Coker Law. Her practice includes medical malpractice, wrongful death and nursing home neglect.