By Saryn Francis, Communications Associate, YWCA USA
August 26th is known to many as Women’s Equality Day, a day that commemorates the passage of the 19th Amendment which granted women the right to vote.
Although this was a momentous day in women’s history, it is important to recognize that not all women were actually guaranteed the right to vote after the 19th Amendment was passed. For decades after, Black people, Asian American women, Native women, LGBTQ+ women, women with disabilities, low-income women, and more faced obstacles to exercising their right to vote – and to this day, many still face huge obstacles to make sure that their voice is heard at the polls.
Although marginalized women have continued to face barriers to voting and representation, we are inspired by all the women today who are pushing the envelope and fighting to get seats in office and to get their voices heard.
Throughout American history, women (especially those of color) have been underrepresented in Congress, making up only 7 percent. This year, women are breaking new records in 2018 primaries in congressional and gubernatorial races. As of mid- August, 49 percent of women who have run for a seat in the House of Representatives have advanced to the general election, 40 percent in the Senate, and about 25 percent running for governor.
And women of color are making waves and making history. 400 Black women are running for office this year, and there has been an outpouring of Latinx and Asian American women, as well as historic numbers of Native women, running for seats at the table. Queer and trans folks are also working towards greater representation, with more than 400 incumbent LGBTQ+ candidates running for office in all levels of government, according to the Victory Institute.
Since 1920, the year the 19th Amendment was passed, there has been much success in fighting for gender equity in the United States – but the work is far from over. Women, especially women of color, LGBTQ+ women, women with disabilities, and others from marginalized groups, still face many difficulties that even go beyond civic engagement. In the current state of our country, we know that our lives are at stake. Our stories and our voices need to be heard.
Our elected officials deeply affect the communities we live in, so it is imperative that we have lawmakers and political representatives who reflect and respect our issues and needs. A Washington Post article states that women of color see the 2018 midterms as an opportunity to challenge the status quo and break down barriers – and we fully agree. As we head towards November, we must support and uplift women, especially women of color.
The time is now to put folks in office that reflect our communities, our ideologies, and our values. All women deserve not only a seat at the table, but to have their voice included, heard, and amplified. Women of color have an important story to tell and it is time for others to step aside so that we can tell it our way in our own voice.