Editor’s Note: This blog was written by Vision 2020 Tennessee Delegate Patricia Pierce.
On August 26, 1920 – 92 years ago — women’s right-to-vote became law after Tennessee’s pivotal ratification of the 19th amendment. Although it is not well known, August 26 of each year since 1971 has been proclaimed a day of commemoration by U.S. Presidents to celebrate the anniversary of women winning the right to vote and to serve as a “symbol of the continued fight for equal rights.”
Have we actually achieved equality or equal rights? When the sun goes down today, the distance between men’s and women’s access to significant decision-making in government will remain. The gap continues. We’re talking Grand Canyon dimensions here! Bella Abzug said it best, “If we get a government that reflects more of what this country is about, we can turn the century — and the economy — around.” In Tennessee, women make up 18.2 percent (24 out of 132) of our state legislature.
As we celebrate the legacy of our foremothers who fought hard for more than 72 years for the right to have their voices heard, the responsibility – and the privilege — is ours to continue their work and take advantage of our right to vote. The simple act of voting is one of the most empowering actions an individual can take. If you think one vote doesn’t matter, you’re wrong. Every vote matters! According to the Secretary of State’s Office, in Tennessee, of the more than 2 million women registered to vote in the 2008 Presidential election, 35% did not vote. This number needs to change. We need to silence forever the old slogan by the anti-suffrage group, “women really don’t want the vote and were probably not qualified to exercise it.” All women and men who are eligible to vote need to register and cast their vote!
I am one of Tennessee’s delegates of the National Vision 2020 program which has given itself eight more years to advocate for equality and make issues of equality a priority in our country. Vision 2020 is a nationwide assembly of women–and men–who believe that it’s just solid good sense for men and women to begin sharing leadership in all parts of American life, so that an unprecedented dimension of positive change can emerge.
With its eye on Aug. 26, 2020, the centennial of the women’s suffrage, Vision 2020 is working with women and men in all 50 states to play catch-up in areas of economic and social equality that have been glaringly neglected.
The women involved in Vision 2020 seek no rivalry with men, only cooperation; no political edge in Washington, only fair participation; no retreat from obligation, only a fair shot at opportunity.
In the last Presidential election, only 73 percent of women in the U.S. and only 68.1 percent of women in Tennessee were registered to vote. Let’s reach out to woman – young and old – to help them register. And then let’s make sure we all vote on November 6 so that our voices will be heard. Vision 2020’s campaign called “She Rocks the Vote” is a simple way to get started by registering to vote online at: http://drexel.edu/vision2020/get_involved/register/