Suffrage as a Human RightAugust 6, 2020
“We ask suffrage not as a favor, not as a privilege, but as a right, based on the grounds that we are human beings, and as such entitled to all human rights.” (Charlotte Rollin, one of the first women and the first African-American woman to address the SC state legislature, in 1869)
From English common law to the fusion of abolition and women’s rights to the reluctant ratification of the 19th amendment in the SC General Assembly in 1969, Dr. Melissa Walker offers a comprehensive, nuanced, inspiring history of the women’s suffrage movement. She engages the racial and class dynamics that both connected and split the movement for women’s suffrage, to teach us our fuller history, and to illuminate the continuing fight for freedom, equity and human rights in our own time.
Dr. Walker reveals that even streets in Spartanburg—Plume and Connecticut in Converse Heights—witness to the women who fought for decades to expand the promise of democracy: “After th[e] demoralizing defeat of the Suffrage Amendment…[t]he South Carolina movement lay dormant for six years. It was revived in Spartanburg in 1912. That year, a woman named Emily Plume Evans gathered a number of her friends together to organize the New Era Club, an organization that was committed to advancing the industrial, legal, and educational rights of women and children.”
Dr. Walker tells the stories of amazing women who would not stop fighting for what they knew was right. And so, we are summoned.
Women’s SuffrageAugust 1, 2020
“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 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, ratified August 18, 1920
Marches. Protests. Strikes.
Harassment. Policing. Arrests.
A global pandemic. A resistant Administration. Laws of exclusion by those who wield power.
Patriarchy. Racism. Systems of violence and oppression.
Courage. Persistence. Teamwork. Change.
The actions leading to the passage of the 19th Amendment 100 years ago resonate with the life of our nation today. We can see, in that moment, in that movement, and in those individuals, both our nation’s light—the vision, the energy, the philosophy, the movement, the investment, the dedication, the achievement—and our shadow. And we see it in ourselves today.
This month, we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment—once more in a pandemic, once more in a time of protest against oppression, once more when some who wield power undermine voting rights for their own benefit.
The accomplishment of those who led us 100 years ago is monumental, arduously wrought from the clash of minds and lives to change how we think, to change our laws, to change how we live. We will celebrate. We will express gratitude. We will learn history we should know but have yet to learn. All this, in honor of the heroic women who knew what could be, and fought to make it so—to the benefit of us all.
There is no better way to honor their memory than to keep fighting. As I write this, the current Administration has publicly suggested using the current pandemic—which has been vastly worsened by that Administration’s callous denial and deliberate mismanagement—as a reason to further disenfranchise voters and to subvert our electoral process.
Tyranny stalks democracy. Our shadow haunts us. We have come so far. We have so far to go.
Fight for voting justice: https://www.lwvofspartanburg.org/
As it was 100 years ago,
now is the time—