Women’s Equality Day marks 95th anniversary of the 19th amendment

Selah Maya Zighelboim

Women’s Equality Day on Wednesday marked the 95th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment, which guarantees the right to vote regardless of gender.

Although Congress passed the 19th amendment in early June 1919, 36 states — the number needed to make it law across the entire country — did not agree to ratify it until 1920. Texas was an early adopter of the 19th amendment, and on June 28, 1919, Texas became the first state in the South and ninth state overall to ratify the amendment.

“Here in Texas, we proudly celebrate these anniversaries through our ongoing commitment to engage all voters to participate in elections,” Elaine Wiant, president of the Texas League of Women Voters, said in a press release. “This anniversary is a great opportunity to celebrate the power of voters to participate in the political process and realize how important they are to a healthy democracy.”

According to a 2014 study by the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, women have had a higher voter turnout rate than men in every presidential election since 1980.

“The 95th anniversary of Women’s Equality Day reminds us that while more women vote than men, they still hold public office in small numbers,” UT’s Center for Women and Gender Studies said in a statement. “In Texas, only 19 percent of the state legislature is made up of women.”

Though Women’s Equality Day marks the ratification of the 19th amendment as a triumph in the women’s rights movement, the 19th amendment is not without criticism. In particular, critics focus on how it failed to secure voting rights for women who were not white.

“I think the 19th amendment was a step in the right direction, but it kind of embodies white feminism,” said Taylor Moore, English junior and women and gender studies minor. “Forty years after it passed, women of color were still denied suffrage in several states, so it was really just a victory for white women.”

Austin also had its own women’s suffrage movement. According to June Conway, voter engagement chair for Austin’s League of Women Voters, multiple Austin organizations formed around the goal of winning the right to vote for women in the early 20th century.

Jane McCallum, a woman who served as Texas secretary of state and is featured in Kinsolving’s Gallery of Great Texas Women, was the president of one of these organizations, the Austin Suffrage Association. She also wrote a regular column called “Woman and Her Ways” for the Austin American-Statesman, where she advocated for women’s suffrage.