1893. New Zealand is the first country to grant women the right to vote in national elections. A movement spreads across Asia and Europe gaining momentum, so that over the next 70 years, women in 70% of all countries in the world win the fight for suffrage. After 1960, the remaining nations join ranks, the last being Saudia Arabia in 2015, so that today, women can finally vote everywhere on this earth. At last.
But the math is not that simple. Voting rights have been granted and later rescinded (multiple times in Afghanistan), granted for local elections but not national ones; granted for some women but not for others. The right to vote often came first to the wealthy and white. Indigenous women and other women of color were not always safeguarded by these laws.
Even in this country, after the 19th amendment granted women the right to vote 100 years ago, African American women faced barriers through voting intimidation and harassment, lack of government-issued identification, lack of transportation, lack of literacy.
Today, women voter turnout in Pakistan is one of the lowest in the world - in some areas as low as 3% - due to religious warnings and sanctions. Sexual violence was a politically motivated weapon against women trying to vote in Kenya's 2017 election. Suffrage does not always erase suffering.
Last Saturday, I stood in line to place my vote at the city library. I felt the honor of doing so, among those members of my community with whom I surely disagree, but agree to disagree, respecting this sober moment of choice. In that second of solitude, flanked by privacy screens, protected by poll volunteers, disposable Covid-safe swab in hand, my mind flashed to the long line of women who fought with their lives to get me here. Because of 480 campaigns before Legislatures, 277 attempts to get State party conventions to include suffrage on their platform, 30 national party conventions to do the same, 19 campaigns with 19 successive Congresses, hunger strikes, forced feedings, prison terms, millions of dollars donated from small purses, tireless, ceaseless effort. . . because of that, I am here in this cubicle, with a voice and a vote.
Because of that, I will not stop my efforts until all women's voices are freed, and counted, and heard.
Marching in a long line ~
Susan Hull Walker