One hundred years ago this week women in the U.S. won the right to vote, and the anniversary is a benchmark to gauge how well our society is making good on the promise of full rights for everyone..
As the nation celebrates the Aug. 18 anniversary of the adoption of the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution - the amendment that game women the right to vote, local women are proud of the milestone and the progress women have made, but still say much remains to be done.
Women today vote at a consistently higher rate than men. In the 2018 midterms, 55 percent of eligible women turned out to vote, compared with 51.8% of men, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Women hold four of the seven seats on the Ohio Supreme Court, and Maureen O’Connor has been chief justice since 2011.
But by many benchmarks, women trail. Women comprise 29 percent of elected officeholders in Ohio, across all levels of government. Ohio has not elected a woman as United States senator, governor, nor state senate president.
In Clark County women are represented at the top levels of government, including Clark County Board of Commissioners, County Cororner, Clerk of Courts, County Sheriff and County Treasurer.
Here is a sampling of what some local women had to say about this major moment in history and moving forward.
Deborah Hill grew up in a home where her father treated her and her brother equally and both would learn about the family business, Bryce-Hill Inc., which has served Springfield for more than 85 years, and were encouraged to be at their best. She took those words to heart and is now president of the business.
Hill reflected that while the passage of the 19th Amendment was a start, the journey isn’t complete just yet.
“We got there and our country is a lot better place for it,” she said. “A lot of people don’t realize it didn’t mean for all. For such a simple premise, it’s hard to understand why it took so long since most African-American women didn’t get that until the 1960s. There is still a lot of fighting for our rights.”
Hill said we should make sure our children and grandchildren know the history and what it took to get there. She appreciates that women’s rights activist Susan B. Anthony is represented on a U.S. coin, but also suggested there be a national holiday to celebrate every year, not just on a centennial.
“We can’t forget we need to keep fighting for human rights and figure out immigration issues, not in a militant or violent way, but to do the right thing for human rights and equality. You should always exercise your right to vote.”
Krystal Phillips has been fighting for women’s rights for years. She is the Student Services Supervisor for Springfield City Schools and serves on the central and executive committees for the Clark County Democratic Party and other organizations.
“We still have so far to go. It’s very important to remember the position women are in,” she said.
She pointed out that when people think of the women’s movement, names like Susan B. Anthony are often the first people think of. She would like African-American women such as Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth to also be mentioned among those. Each of those women passed away before the 19th Amendment passed, but their work should always be remembered.
Phillips was excited by the announcement of Sen. Kamala Harris as presumptive Democratic Party nominee Joe Biden’s choice for his vice presidential running mate. .
Phillips said she was pleased to see Sarah Palin’s sisterly gesture to Harris.
“I was glad to see Sarah Palin reach out to Kamala Harris. It showed crossing a divide. You can cross racial divides when you reach out.”
Phillips mentioned civil rights activist Nannie Helen Burroughs when she said we have to come together to fight for the rights of all people, that human rights are bigger than any of us.
“My hope and belief are we can all come together – whether you’re a person of color, whether you’re impacted by poverty, if you’re of LGBTQ. We need to get rid of isms.”
Barbara Crabill couldn’t say enough about the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage. She appreciates those doors being opened that allowed her to pursue a career in special education, retiring from the Springfield City Schools and working for women’s and children’s healthcare and for the League of Women Voters.
Now age 75, she wants others to know just because the right was earned, it needs to be used and not taken for granted.
“This subject is so important to me. It all began 100 years ago to things being open, equal and accessible, and women of my generation helped work for reproductive health care.
“We’ve made a lot of progress but are in danger of losing making our voices heard. We need to vote every time we can. Women earned the right to be seen as equal partners and we can’t ever lose sight of that.”
Crabill said it’s important to fight for the disenfranchised and we’re still in progress on that front and need to stay with it even when it’s difficult. She believes while some things have changed, others haven’t and that the success of 1920 was the beginning and we’re still not at the end.
“Any time people fight for their rights it’s difficult. Voting needs to be easier, others need to be brought into the mix and everybody needs to vote – all races and genders. We’re in a frightening time. But we’ve always come through and we’ll continue to.”
Contributing writer Mary McCarty contributed to this report.
About the Author