Lessons from the voting rights movement

August 26th marks the 97th anniversary of the passage of the 19th amendment, granting the right to vote regardless of gender. We celebrate the anniversary of this hard-fought victory as one among many in the fight to win true voting equality – a fight that continues today.

For women of color who faced poll taxes, literacy tests, laws prohibiting them from citizenship, and violent intimidation, access to voting wasn’t a reality until decades after the 19th amendment passed in 1920. And today, communities of color and low-income communities continue to face discriminatory voter ID laws, closure of polling locations, and other voter suppression policies. As the co-chairs of 9to5’s Board of Directors, we’re proud of our history and of 9to5’s ongoing work to engage our communities in the voting process. It’s going to take every one of us in this fight.

As lifelong activists in the voting rights movement, here is how and why we stay involved.

From Gloria Smith (read the full-length blog post here):

Two years ago I joined 9to5 members and staff in Selma, marking the 50th Anniversary of Bloody Sunday. I can never forget how I felt walking across the Edmund Pettus Bridge that day. I cried. I chanted to the top of my lungs. I could feel the spirits of the elders who traveled across this same bridge. At times my body quivered and shook, thinking about what it must have been like to have been beaten and brutalized. Fifty years ago I was only 15 years old, and didn’t fully understand what was going on. As I grew older I was able to understand the struggles folks of color had just to register to vote. Because of that struggle I will never miss an opportunity to vote and I have been a strong advocate for get-out-the-vote campaigns and for our civic rights for many years. On the drive from Atlanta to Selma, it pleased my heart to be in a van in the company of young people who shared my same commitment to the fight for equal justice. They promised and assured me that they will continue to fight, educate and advocate until victory is won.


From Cathy Deppe (read the full-length blog post here):  

In 1965 I spent the summer in Alabama doing voter registration with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). We went to rallies and mass meetings; got arrested at demonstrations; and went door-to-door to register voters. When White people saw us in groups of Black and White volunteers together, the response was anger, hate calls, and guns pulled on us. Sometimes when Black people saw us the response was fear. They faced immense retaliation for registering to vote – if your landlord saw you, you might get evicted. If your banker saw you, you might lose your loan. The biggest lesson I learned, that continues to shape my life, is that “I’m not free if you’re not free.” There’s a lot of work left to do in the fight to make sure that everyone can actively participate in the decision-making processes that impact their lives. As I learned all those years ago, it goes a lot deeper than making an x on a ballot.

Today, in honor of the many generations of women who have marched, spoken out, and stood up to violence and intimidation to win the right for all women to vote – Join us!  We’ll need everyone to expand access to the ballot and to engage more voters – this year, and very year.

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