As the nation prepares to commemorate Women’s Equality Day on August 26, 2023, it’s a poignant moment to reflect on the hard-won progress achieved in women’s rights, particularly in the political arena. The journey to secure the right to vote for women was a tireless struggle that spanned decades, culminating in the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920. Today, organizations like Vote Run Lead stand as modern champions, continuing the legacy of advocacy for women’s political participation.
In 1869, the first national suffrage groups were founded in the U.S., led by Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucy Stone, and Frances Ellen Watkins Harper. They later united in 1890 as the National American Woman Suffrage Association, while the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, established in 1873, also played a major role in advancing the movement.
Passed by Congress on June 4, 1919, and ratified on August 18, 1920, the 19th Amendment marked a watershed moment in American history by granting women the right to vote. This achievement resulted from the unyielding efforts of women who organized, protested, and advocated for their political enfranchisement throughout the 19th century. The journey, marked by persistence and determination, is an enduring reminder of the transformative power of collective action.
Vote Run Lead, an organization dedicated to amplifying women’s voices in politics, has emerged as a formidable force in pursuing gender parity in political representation. The organization founded by Erin Vilardi and is committed to advancing women’s engagement in politics, particularly women of color who have historically faced systemic barriers.
Vilardi emphasizes the importance of achieving a democracy that is truly reflective of its populace. With women comprising 51 percent of the population and holding significant sway as voters, the organization advocates for a shift from activism to actual lawmaking. The driving principle is to empower women to run for office, especially at the state legislative level, where decisions profoundly impact citizens’ lives.
Vote Run Lead’s focus on state legislatures reflects a strategic understanding of the locus of power in the modern political landscape. State legislatures wield considerable authority in shaping education, healthcare, infrastructure policies, and more. Additionally, they play a pivotal role in distributing federal funds for essential programs.
While these decisions are of national significance, the statistics reveal an urgent need for greater diversity in state legislatures. “Only 32.7 percent of state representatives and 30 percent of state senators are women.” Said Vilardi. This underrepresentation directly affects policy outcomes and hampers the government’s ability to serve the population’s diverse needs.
Vote Run Lead’s RUN/51 Summit, scheduled for November in Detroit, is a tangible testament to the organization’s commitment to effecting change. The summit presents an opportunity for women interested in politics to engage, learn, and be inspired to embark on their political journeys. Vilardi has an audacious yet achievable goal of having “women occupy 51 percent of state legislative seats,” underscoring the organization’s determination to bring about tangible progress. As Women’s Equality Day echoes across the country, the impact of organizations like Vote Run Lead continues to underscore the importance of advocating for women’s rights in the political realm.
Image source: Library of Congress