Ninety-six years ago today saw the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, guaranteeing women the right to vote. Actual history, as it always is, is rather messier than that: we have records of individual women voting, here and there, as early as the late 1700s, along with (always successful) bids to outlaw and silence said voters. The fight for the Nineteenth Amendment wasn't one single groundswell that paved the way. It was a long and hard-fought battle that played out over more than a hundred years, marked with tiny victories and painful setbacks.
Isn't that crazy? The very idea that over half our population voting would be seen as controversial seems mad today, yet suffragettes faced decades of verbal and physical assault, public shaming, and even prison time for advancing the radical notion that women should have a voice in society. And they kept fighting, for the simple right to speak out, to be heard, as much as for the right to cast a ballot. As Susan B. Anthony said, "No advanced step taken by women has been so bitterly contested as that of speaking in public. For nothing which they have attempted, not even to secure the suffrage, have they been so abused, condemned and antagonized."
And here we are, in 2016, with a woman heading up the candidacy for a major political party. Now, this isn't a political post and I'm not here to tell you who to vote for, that's not my business; I'm just saying, isn't it incredible what a difference less than a hundred years can make? It wasn't time that made the change, though: it was the hard work and sacrifice of so many people, who fought and struggled and laid their livelihood and often their lives on the line to give women their due. So many of their names, lost to history now. So many of their individual sacrifices forgotten, even though we benefit from them today, every single day.
So here's a toast to the suffragettes, then and now, and the spirit of freedom. The spirit of this nation I love, where I'm free to make my art and tell my stories in part because of those brave sacrifices. There's still work to be done, but there's nothing wrong with a little celebration now and then.