This month marks the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which enshrines these words: “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.” That’s kind of a big deal.
If you can think of a more significant legal development in the last hundred years than activating fifty percent of the population to participate in the republic, let us know. We think it’s second to none. It marked the largest expansion of democracy in the history of our country, and it made us exponentially wiser, safer, and stronger. But women’s suffrage has had that effect wherever its light has touched around the world. To borrow from a famous phrase, it was one giant leap for humankind.
So let’s celebrate. Yesterday, August 18, marked one hundred years since Tennessee’s legislature voted to make it the 36th state to ratify the Amendment, which sealed the deal. And next Wednesday, August 26, will mark a hundred years since the U.S. Secretary of State certified Tennessee’s vote, formally adding the Amendment to the Constitution. On Wednesday, you may even see buildings and landmarks near you lit up in purple and gold as part of a national project called Forward Into Light, named for a famous suffrage slogan, “Forward through the Darkness, Forward into Light.”
And to help celebrate, the New York Times has created this great visual history of a movement that coincided with the birth of photography. It closes with these words: “There is still progress to be made. But all this would be unimaginable if women had not won the vote.”