WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States marked the centennial of the constitutional amendment that granted women the right to vote on Wednesday with celebrations of the “historic victory” as well as pleas by female politicians to honor the milestone by voting in November’s presidential election.
The 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was formally certified on Aug. 26, 1920, after decades of struggle by suffragettes. It states, “the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”
The date is marked in the United States each year as Women’s Equality Day.
For the women’s suffrage movement, the amendment’s ratification was a realization of the Constitution’s first phrase, “We the People” – although it would take until 1965 for the rights of Black women and men to vote to be protected.
In New York’s Central Park, a statue of three 19th century pioneers of women’s suffrage, Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, was unveiled, all of whom had died by the time women could vote.
“While the passage of the 19th Amendment was a critical, important, historic victory, it was also an incomplete one,” said former Secretary of State and 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton at the unveiling.
“It would take decades longer to guarantee the franchise for women of color, especially Black and Native American women. And a century later, the struggle to enforce the right to vote continues. We’re still fighting so that every eligible American can cast their ballot and know their vote will be counted regardless of race, age or geography,” she added.
Last week, President Donald Trump issued a pardon to Anthony, who was fined for voting illegally in 1872.
“There is nothing more important… to honor the women portrayed in this statue than to vote. That is the best way to lead America forward; as the suffragists used to say, ‘forward through the darkness, forward into light,'” said Clinton.
U.S. Senator and Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris wrote in a tweet, “We cannot mark Women’s Equality Day without remembering the voters of color who weren’t included in the 19th Amendment victory a century ago – women who faced poll taxes and literacy tests.”
“To honor their sacrifices, let’s vote in record numbers this fall.”
Later on Wednesday, national landmarks will be lit up in purple and gold, the symbolic colors of the suffrage movement.
“Women’s suffrage is a long story of hard work and heartache crowned by victory,” Carrie Chapman Catt, the founder of the U.S. League of Women Voters, said in 1920.
(Reporting by Reuters Television; Writing by Alexandra Hudson; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)