I hope residents of the Cedar Valley fervently celebrated the Fourth of July. As we know that was the date in 1776 when America declared itself an independent nation. July 2 also should be a date all Iowans remember, and the calendar year 2020 is of special significance as well. Why?

At 10 a.m. July 2, 1919, Iowa’s Gov. William L. Harding called the all male 38th General Assembly into special session for the sole purpose of ratifying the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, granting women the right to vote. The Senate vote was 48 ayes, 0 nays and 2 absent, and the House voted 96 ayes, five nays with seven absent. Iowa became the 10th state to ratify the 19th Amendment.

On Aug. 18, 1920, Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the gender equality voting legislation, and President Woodrow Wilson made the law official Aug. 26, 1920. The calendar year 2020 is when all states will commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment.

Twenty-six different organizations, agencies and institutions throughout Iowa have collaborated and planned 27 different statewide projects and activities that are educational, historical and cultural in nature for the purpose of educating citizens on the ideals embodied in the 19th Amendment.

Prior to 1920, American women were relatively voiceless in governmental affairs. Three events propelled men in state legislatures and Congress to cement women’s role in America’s participatory democracy.

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First, as a result of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott being barred from attending the World Anti-Slavery Convention due to their gender, a public protest meeting was held in Seneca Falls, New York, on July 19-20, 1848, to fight for social, civil and religious rights of women. Their relentless fight for justice continued for another 72 years. Second, the American enfranchisement movement received a boost when England granted women’s suffrage in 1906. Finally, women were exceedingly helpful with America fighting in World War I (1914-1918), putting them on equal footing with men — male legislators rewarded females for their patriotism.

It took more than 70 years for a multitude of American women and some brave men, while enduring arrests, harassment, physical attacks, insults and jail time, to gain the right to vote. Since 1920, the door to women to be seen as equals has been opened. Women have shaped the development of the United States coming into the 21st century and become the most active members of the political sphere. America is now privileged to have women serve in government, from the Supreme Court to the local magistrate, from city council representatives to legislators, and the list goes on.

Many American women may not realize how miraculous it is to have the privilege of voting. Voting in 11 countries (Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uganda, Kenya, Oman, Qatar, Egypt, Nigeria, Papa New Guinea and Zanzibar) is only permissible if their male partner gives them permission. Vatican City, in Rome, prohibits women from voting.

The case for equal voice for women was won in 1920 at enormous cost and sacrifice by women and men from Iowa and the nation — the battle was hard won. Yet, even a casual glance at today’s headlines, voter disenfranchisement and suppression and knowing Iowa women’s salary is 77 percent of what men earn, reveals how much more remains unfinished — it is not done. Hence, “Hard Won-Not Done” is the theme of Iowa’s 19th Amendment Centennial Commemoration.

The website https://19th-Amendment-Centennial.org is the best resource to become informed of the 27 activities planned for 2020. Become a catalyst leader for your community and her businesses, organizations, public officials, foundations and philanthropists and help celebrate Iowa’s 19th Amendment Centennial Commemoration.

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Steve Corbin is an emeritus professor of marketing at the University of Northern Iowa. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not reflect those of the University of Northern Iowa.


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