In speaking to a group of men last week, it was not surprising that they had never heard of WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH. They asked me if this was something new. I told them that it had been a national celebration for quite some time now. The worldwide celebration of women started in the early 1900s but it evolved into a month-long celebration in the U.S. in 1987. It was started as a way to promote equality among sexes in the classroom. This is of great importance around the world even today as women are still denied many rights in countries around the world! Sadly, I do not come across many women who know about Women’s History Month or are ready to talk about the importance of women in our culture. This is a good time to learn!
I feel the necessity for the celebration from two personal standpoints: being WOMAN and being BLACK. Although the month is not just about women gaining the right to vote, women’s suffrage is one of the defining elements. Women wanted to be treated like thinking & feeling human beings and did not want to be disenfranchised on the basis of sex. This is what led to the struggle for women’s rights known as the feminist movements.
Feminism (n): the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.
In America, women’s suffrage movements and Black freedom movements were parallel but indeed separate. I am deeply affected by both. America is still in the recovery years from slavery and oppression. THE DATES:
March 30, 1870, the 15 Amendment was adopted allowing Black men the right to vote. Few actually ever voted because of other oppressive laws that were set up to counter their votes. Blacks were still being lynched and treated like animals well into the 1960s. So, almost 90 years after the initial ratification, there were still too many parameters set up to deter Blacks from voting.
Women’s right to vote came in 1920 after the 19 Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that prohibits any United States citizen to be denied the right to vote based on sex.
Were Black women voting at this point? Not too many. Black people did not FULLY exercise the right to vote until the 1960s after protesting Jim Crow laws that were pretty much scare tactics to keep Blacks from voting. This is why many people believe that women actually received the right to vote before Blacks.
Not until the Voting Rights of 1965 did African Americans start to vote, without fear of being beat, lynched, spat on, turned away, etc. It eliminated literacy tests, poll tax, and other subjective voter tests that kept Blacks from voting.
Technically, all WOMEN did not get the right to vote, free of discrimination until 1965. This meant that any person regardless of race or sex could vote. Every diasporic groups voting rights were strengthened during the Civil Rights Movement.
In the celebration of the history of the woman, I would like to acknowledge the 1920 amendment as well as the Voting Rights Act which was the beginning of the right for every woman to vote free of discrimination. I am you, and you are me and we must celebrate every woman the same.
QUEEN DUAFE FOR AFRICAN ESSENCE