Editorials | Issues | August 2008
|Women's Equality Day, August 26, 2008|
Jennifer DaSilva - overseasvotefoundation.org
The United States designates August 26 of each year as Women's Equality Day. The day marks the 1920 passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that gave American women full voting rights. This was the culmination of a massive, peaceful civil rights movement by women, the roots of which go back at least 80 years.
History usually traces the beginnings of the women's rights movement to Seneca Falls, New York and the first women's rights convention in 1848. Looking more closely however, one will see that the seeds for the Seneca Falls convention were sown in London, England at the World Anti-Slavery Conference in 1840.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, both active abolitionists in the U.S., met for the first time in London, where they were official delegates to the Conference. Upon their arrival to the Conference, they discovered that they were barred from participating, despite their extensive antislavery organizing in the U.S., because of their gender.
This blatant discrimination highlighted the need for a convention on the rights of women. The two women agreed to organize such a convention upon their return to America. It took them eight years but in July 1848, while Mott was visiting upstate New York, Stanton and Mott convened the now historic Seneca Falls Convention.
Between 100 and 300 people attended the Convention, among them many male sympathizers including the antislavery leader Frederick Douglass. Stanton wrote a "Declaration of Rights and Sentiments" which she patterned after the American Declaration of Independence. In her Declaration, Stanton wrote "all men and women are created equal." The Declaration was the first official demand that called for women's suffrage in the United States.
After the Seneca Falls Convention, more than 70 years would pass before the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified on August 26, 1920. Only one Convention delegate, 19 year-old Charlotte Woodward, lived to see women finally win the right to vote.
Breakthrough Politics - The Name of the Game in 2008
This year's race for the presumptive Democratic presidential nomination has ended in an historic first - Senator Barack Obama has become the first African-American to win the presidential nomination of a major American political party.
Obama's victory has been hailed as a benchmark moment for the American promise of opportunity and equality for all. And, it comes on the heels of a long and hard-fought Democratic race with Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, who many believed was poised to become the first woman presidential nominee of a major American political party.
Breakthrough politics, however, has been the name of the game this 2008 election year. The White House hopefuls this year have been breaking down racial, gender, ethnic, religious, and personal history barriers that likely would have ruled them out as credible candidates in the past.
Senator John McCain, the presumptive Republican-party nominee, would be, at age 72, the oldest person ever to assume the American presidency. Other presidential hopefuls have included New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, the first Hispanic candidate for president; former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, who was vying to become the first Mormon president; and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who was vying to become the first Italian-American president.
This November, all signs point to a record turnout of registered voters. Much of that voter interest has been stoked by a drawn-out and highly competitive Democratic contest between two historic candidates (Senator Obama and Senator Clinton.)
But interest also has been unusually high on the Republican side. Perhaps fueling this atmosphere is America's hunger for change, or maybe it is the deep concerns that Americans have about the economy and the war in Iraq.
Regardless, state and local election officials expect turnout in the upcoming presidential election to exceed that of 2004, when voter turnout hit 61 percent - which was the highest level since 1968, according to the Center for the Study of the American Electorate. On Super Tuesday alone, turnout records were set in 15 states where both parties held February 5 primaries. Twelve states saw record-breaking Democratic turnout while 11 set Republican turnout records.
As voters flock to the polls to vote in record numbers in this historic election, we are provided with a most vivid example of American democracy in action. And, by all accounts, this upcoming presidential election represents the history of American progress like no other.
The 2008 field of presidential contenders reminds us of the suffragists who gathered in 1848 at Seneca Falls, and those who kept fighting for over 70 years until women could finally cast their votes; of the abolitionists who struggled and died to see the end of slavery; of the civil rights leaders who protested for equal rights and the end of segregation. Of course, our job is far from done, either at home or abroad, because there is no such thing as done when one talks about the affirmation of rights.
Celebrate Women's Equality Day this year by rededicating yourself to the true meaning of the women's suffragist movement: register to vote and cast your ballot. Have you requested your overseas absentee ballot yet? Just click HERE to do it now!
Overseas Vote Foundation is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that provides easy-to-use online tools and services for U.S. voters residing overseas. For more information, click HERE or visit OverSeasVoteFoundation.org.