I just read an uplifting article written last month, dealing with the history of the long and frustrating process that women have had to undergo and endure, to achieve certain basic rights, such as the right to vote, among other things. See Century of Suffrage – the fight for voting rights and beyond, by Rachel Otwell, Illinois Times, News & Opinion (online version), October 22, 2020. An interesting fact brought out in the article, is that in Illinois, women were granted the complete and comprehensive right to vote before women obtained similar rights in many other states, and also before the passage on the national level of the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1920, in which women were granted the right to vote nationwide. Thus, Illinois was farther along than most states, in terms of those rights that it was willing to grant to women, at least as far the right to vote was concerned. However, even in Illinois, the process was lengthy and frustrating at times, and the right to vote was only granted gradually in stages, over a couple of decades or so, in that women were first allowed to vote in local and municipal elections, then state elections, and then finally, by 1913, women in Illinois were allowed to vote in presidential elections. Women suffragists employed various tactics and means to achieve their goal of being able to vote and bring attention to their cause, such as protest marches and demonstrations, as well as political lobbying. At times, women protesters encountered contempt, derision and even occasionally violence, especially women activists of color. Indeed, women of color and those from minority groups faced increased challenges, for in addition to suffering discrimination based on their gender, they also encountered racial prejudice as well, which at times impeded the efforts of women of color to participate in the women’s suffrage movement. Women from minority groups were thus forced to engage in a multi-pronged fight for equality, with their struggle for gender rights being combined with their concurrent struggle for racial equality and justice. Yet, the women’s movement proved to be an effective vehicle in assisting minorities and people of color in their battle for civil rights, and while women (and minorities) achieved their right to vote, as well as other legal protections and rights, the women’s rights movement, as of yet, has still not been able to reach all of its goals, such as the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment in the late 1970s, and over the past 40 years, has thus been forced to slowly attain legal equality incrementally instead. Yet, with the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment by Illinois and most other states, perhaps this will lead to new legislative and political opportunities for women to finally clear the final hurtles, before achieving, at long last, passage of the Equal Rights Amendment. The success of the women’s suffrage movement long ago was a step in that direction, and set the path and pattern for the women’s rights movement to follow.
-Attorney Matthew Ludwinski
See Century of Suffrage – the fight for voting rights and beyond, by Rachel Otwell, Illinois Times, News & Opinion, October 22, 2020.