The League of Women Voters celebrated its 100th birthday last Tuesday at the Corvallis-Benton County Public Library by reflecting on the past suffragettes. The strides America took in order for women to be granted the god-given right to vote, and acknowledging that the fight for social equality fight is never over.
Emma Smith DeVoe and Carrie Chapman Catt founded the orginization in Washington DC in 1920 with the intentions of pushing for the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution which grants women the right to vote.The Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits the states and the federal government from denying the right to vote to citizens of the United States on the basis of sex.
The organization of early suffragettes encouraged all women to recognize the influence that their individual voice can have when on a voting ballot to reach the new concept of equal rights for men and women. For 100 years the LWV promotes voter registration, provides unbiased information about current political candidates as well as details on specific election events.
It is safe to say that over the 100 years the organization has been alive and active all while successfully spreading their message all the way across America. Starting in the East and moving to the West Coast, women and men fight for equal rights by voting and being a voice in their community. The LWV is not restricted to one gender and welcomes anyone to participate in highlighting the power a vote has behind it. It has carried out its purpose and message of eliminating sexism and bigotry so that everyone may have an equal chance in the “land of the free.”
“For 100 years the LWV have consisted of women and men who work to improve our system of government and to impact policies though citizen education and advocacy,” commented mayor Biff Treber said during the LWV 100th celebration in the Corvallis Public Library.
Not only did the LWV celebrate its 100th birthday on Feb. 14, Oregon passed it’s 108th year of allowing American women the right to vote on the same day. Kimberly Jensen, a professor of history and gender studies at WOU as well as Mina Carson, a professor of history, philosophy, and religion at OSU, recognized this overlooked accomplishment, and took the opportunity to speak to the LWV. Together they highlighted the steps women suffragettes had to take in order to grant us with the freedom of voting most of us have today.
“It’s very important to connect to history, but it’d be dangerous to stay there,” Jensen said. Celebrating 108 years of American women being able to vote sounds like it was an act of past American history to look on back on. However, to put it on a timeline, America signed the Declaration of Independence and claimed its emancipation from England in 1776. 136 years later, in 1912, American women claimed their passive right to vote in elections which means America has more years of women not being able to vote than it does of women being able to vote to this day in 2020.
Japanese immigrants were granted the right to become U.S. citizens just 68 years ago. “The limitations of the federal level was in place until WW2 and after prevented first generation Asian Americans from becoming American citizens and therefore voting,” quoted Jensen.
Elenor Hock was the first tribal woman to attend the University of Oregon and could not vote until 1924, Africian Americans gained the right to vote only 55 years ago, women were allowed to join the military as of 72 years ago, America’s first African American President was elected 11 years ago and sliced bread was invented 92 years ago. This is not history, this is happening now. “We have to know that once our rights are achieved, they are never saved and we have to continue working for them,” Carson summed up.
LWV celebrates that within the past few hundred years America has made great strides for equality, but push the fact that the people cannot lose their voice and push for the community to vote. We must focus on what’s best for our country’s future, the people in it, and the up-coming generations.
Story by McKenna Christmas