What is a Vote Worth? - Louisville, KY
The year 2020 will mark the 100th anniversary of the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment which gave women the right to vote and the 55th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act. The Frazier Museum, The League of Women Voters, and The Louisville Metro Office for Women will work with more than 100 community partner organizations, including the University of Louisville, to coordinate Louisville’s celebration of these two milestones in women’s quest for the vote.
UofL's Trailblazing Women
In 1919, after decades of activism, Congress passed the 19th Amendment: “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.” Much of the 20th Century Suffragist Movement traces its resurgence back to the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention, led primarily by Northern white women such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, who joined with others, especially anti-slavery abolitionists such as Frederick Douglass and Ida B. Wells, to re-energize the fight for women to vote, and thereby become full citizens.
Despite the 19th Amendment, many women of color (like men of color) could not exercise their right to vote until the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which enforced the 15th Amendment, "[t]he 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 race, color, or previous condition of servitude." Although the 15th Amendment abolished discriminatory voting laws for men in 1870, states, especially in the South, enacted their own enforcement policies, such as “literacy tests,” “poll taxes” or “morality character tests,” that disenfranchised racial minorities for almost one hundred years. The Voting Rights Act remedied these exclusionary practices, in part by building upon the multiple pieces of legislation (e.g., Snyder Act/Indian Citizenship Act; McCarran-Walter Act) that have been needed to ensure people of color are afforded their voting rights.
Given this history, women of color needed at least the 15th Amendment, the 19th Amendment, and the Voting Rights Act to realize their enfranchisement. As 19th and 20th century leaders such as Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, Sojourner Truth, and Nannie Helen Burroughs highlighted, both sex and race shaped who counted as US citizens able to have the right to vote.
Today, many measures still de-facto disenfranchise voters including those who are trans, incarcerated, Native American, and more.
As we celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment and the 55th Anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, let us remember the many who struggled and who continue to struggle to guarantee the right of all US citizens to vote.