This August marks the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which granted American women the right to vote. At the forefront of this movement were Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, whose “Declaration of Sentiments” reiterated the terms of the Declaration of Independence, albeit with a twist. “We hold these truths to be self-evident,” they wrote: “that all men and women are created equal.”

Years prior to the passage of the 19th Amendment, the College’s founder, Ellen Browning Scripps, had been toiling away on a California referendum for women’s right to vote. Active in the suffrage movement since 1873, Ms. Scripps wrote that the women’s vote could “regenerate society [and that] the point and pith and weight of this power lies in the franchise.” For Ms. Scripps, women’s “protestations against injustice and iniquity” could only be effectively exercised through the right to vote. On November 14, 1911, the referendum was passed, and she cast her first ballot.

 

Looking back, we now see that the 19th Amendment, a momentous paradigm shift, also came with drawbacks. These rights were only afforded to White women, and it would be decades before women of color would also garner the right to vote; even now, structural impediments to voting continue to alienate vast swaths of Americans.

 

This issue of Scripps magazine, A Seat at the Table, explores the progress and limitations of voter rights from the late 19th century to the present day. The feature story “Women’s Suffrage: 100 Years Later” explores how the Spanish flu of 1918 and the present-day coronavirus have brought undue economic and social hardship for women, as well as how state and federal barriers continue to impede voter access and thereby limit democracy.

It is more imperative now than ever before to eradicate the barriers that keep voters from the polls and to open doors to thoughtful women.

The fall issue also explores women’s representation in elected positions—from student associations to the seats of Congress—in “On the Ballot.” Associate Professor of Economics Nicholas Kacher discusses how the American economy and labor market will shift to accommodate our radically altered reality amid and after the COVID-19 pandemic and how voters may respond when they cast their ballots in November. In the “Focus on the Faculty” section, Associate Professor of Chicanx-Latinx Studies Martha Gonzalez explores the limits and possibilities of electoral politics, urging us to also consider the power of grassroots, community-based activism. And in a special feature on racial injustice, Black Lives Matter, and higher education, guest writer Brittany King explores the status of Black women in higher education and how the College is working to enhance diversity, inclusion, and equity initiatives in order to continue to dismantle institutional racism.

 

A full 25 percent of women in Congress went to women’s colleges, and graduates of women’s colleges are more likely to earn graduate degrees and hold corporate leadership positions. With the 2020 presidential election around the corner, a national reckoning taking place on issues of racial injustice and violence, and the country still in the grip of COVID-19, it is more imperative now than ever before to eradicate the barriers that keep voters from the polls and to open doors to thoughtful women at the highest levels of national leadership.

 

Lara Tiedens