This month marks the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, which guaranteed the right of women to vote.
Finally ratified on Aug. 18, 1920, the text of the amendment is simple enough: "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. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation."
But the implications have been profound.
Consider this: A woman has been on the presidential ticket in 2008, 2016 and 2020. Kansas is seeing female candidates in multiple national races and has a female governor.
The U.S. speaker of the House is a woman. So is the president of the Kansas Senate. And while Nancy Pelosi and Susan Wagle may not have a great deal to say to one another, they have thrived as politicians in a system that has — however reluctantly — changed to include women of all backgrounds and ideologies.
We have come a long way. But it’s worth noting that the progress has been slow. Women were elected on the national level intermittently through the 1970s, but it wasn’t until the past few decades that sizable numbers served. That means that the perspective of more than half of those in this country was severely underrepresented in the halls of power.
And we mustn’t forget what happened to Hillary Clinton.
As an accomplished politician and skilled stateswomen, her groundbreaking 2016 run for president was shadowed by appallingly sexist commentary. The fact that she won the popular vote by millions of ballots but still yielded to Donald Trump is a microcosm of the challenges faced by professional women to this day.
The message, perhaps, is this. The right to vote does not necessarily produce political power. Indeed, for some years, it was expected that wives would simply vote as their husbands did. Only when people are willing to stand up and fight for what they believe in — regardless of party or ideology — do we see real change. Only when women vote, run, win and speak out do the dominoes begin to fall.
The 19th Amendment provided a starting point. But we’re still working to live up to the message of equality between men and women that it suggests.