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100 Years Ago, Women Won the Right to Vote

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
AP Photo/File

August 18, 2020 is a momentous day in American history because it is the centennial celebration of women achieving the right to vote in the United States.

For decades, suffragists fought for their right to have a voice in the nation’s elections. Unbeknownst to many, it was the Republican Party that led the march for women’s right to vote. On the other hand, the Democratic Party fought tooth and nail to oppose it. Despite Democrats’ claims that Republicans are engaged in a “war on women,” history would tell us otherwise. 

In 1878, the Nineteenth Amendment was introduced as a resolution to the U.S. Constitution by Sen. Aaron Sargent (R-CA).This amendment—also known as the Susan B. Anthony Amendment—was blocked four times by the then-controlled Democratic Senate. It wasn’t until 1919, when the Republicans regained control of Congress, that the Nineteenth Amendment passed.

According to the National Archives, the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution “passed by Congress June 4, 1919, and ratified on August 18, 1920 … guarantees all American women the right to vote. Achieving this milestone required a lengthy and difficult struggle; victory took decades of agitation and protest. Beginning in the mid-19th century, several generations of woman suffrage supporters lectured, wrote, marched, lobbied, and practiced civil disobedience to achieve what many Americans considered a radical change of the Constitution. Few early supporters lived to see final victory in 1920.”

In the century since the passage and ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, the United States has done much more to guarantee that women are treated as equally as their male counterparts. The United States, unlike many other countries, has made great strides to ensure that women are treated equally under the law, as they obviously should be.

However, that is not to say that women in America (as well as men) are living in a time of unfettered freedom. From draconian lockdowns that have crushed women’s livelihoods to a host of regulations that makes it ever more difficult for women (and men) to launch new businesses, in some ways the United States is less free than it was 100 years ago.

According to the Economic Freedom Index, the United States ranks 17th in the world. As the Index’s author’s state, the United States is “moderately free.” As an ardent believer in individual freedom, I believe the United States of America can do better. Moreover, we owe it to our glorious freedom fighters from generations ago to keep the fight for freedom going.

Perhaps Dr. Ron Paul, a former U.S. representative from Texas, put it best, “But let it not be said that we did nothing. Let not those who love the power of the welfare/warfare state label the dissenters of authoritarianism as unpatriotic or uncaring. Patriotism is more closely linked to dissent than it is to conformity and a blind desire for safety and security. Understanding the magnificent rewards of a free society makes us unbashful in its promotion, fully realizing that maximum wealth is created and the greatest chance for peace comes from a society respectful of individual liberty.”

Reflecting on the sacrifices and efforts made by women (and men) to strive for freedom during the suffragist movement ought to inspire those in my generation to continue fighting for liberty.

Unfortunately, our fight for freedom exists on a vast array of fronts. For women, this is particularly important because our nation, via extensive regulations, licensing, taxation, etc. is making it ever-more difficult for women to become as self-sufficient as possible.

For instance, if a woman would like to open a hair salon in many states, or even become a licensed hair stylist, they must jump through a series of bureaucratic hoops. They also must pay thousands for the ability to practice their craft. This is the real “war on women.” And it is brought on them by overregulating Democrats, not free-market Republicans.

Even worse, many women (and men) wonder what type of country their children will inherit. For starters, their children will be laden with a mind-boggling national debt of $27 trillion. And who in their right mind would want to leave this burden on future generations?

As we look at our nation’s past and we examine the successes we owe it to ourselves to also examine the failures. And looking at the anti-free market environment that we have created, there is clearly need for reform.

As citizens, we ought to consider the importance of what our leaders do and don’t do. Speaking as a woman, our leaders are spending our country into oblivion while offering more “free stuff” than ever. This is a recipe for disaster.

As a woman, I bet the suffragists who fought for universal suffrage would be shocked at how many Americans carelessly cast votes time and again for politicians who make empty promises and treat us as a monolithic constituency.

As women, we should reclaim our voices and demand our political leaders do what is right for us and our children by allowing all Americans the fundamental freedom of life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. As women, we can do this. And we don’t need the government to help us, we simply need to be given the individual liberty to help ourselves.

Christina Herrin (cherrin@heartland.org) is the director for Free to Choose Medicine, a project of The Heartland Institute, a non-partisan, free-market think tank headquartered in Arlington Heights, Illinois.

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