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The Women's Vote: 96 Years Later Voting Rights Fights Remain

Nearly a century after winning the right to vote, women still fight for equal rights. (Library of Congress)
Nearly a century after winning the right to vote, women still fight for equal rights. (Library of Congress)
August 26, 2016

HARTFORD, Conn. - Women have only been able to legally vote for less than 100 years, and an observance today commemorates efforts to achieve equal rights as well as the continued need to protect democracy. Women's Equality Day marks the certification of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote.

The president of the National Organization for Women, Terry O'Neill, noted that it took some time for all women to have a voice, because voter suppression laws prevented some women of color from voting.

"It's only been since the 1960s, since passage of the Voting Rights Act combined with the 1920s ratification of the women's right to vote," she said. "It's really since the mid-1960s that we have begun to truly exercise our voice."

She said there is now a new generation in the fight for voting rights, with restrictions on identification and registration among the current debates around the country. The U.S. Constitution prohibits restricting voting based on race, gender and age, but it does not provide the explicit right to vote.

O'Neill pointed out that despite advances, the fight for equal rights for women is far from over. In the workplace, women earn about 77 cents for every dollar men are paid. She said that and other issues such as reproductive rights are examples of why women have to keep up the fight.

"Some 300 laws have been put on the books, actually passed and signed by governors at the state level, restricting in one fashion or another women's access to reproductive health care, whether it's through defunding family-planning clinics, or outright banning abortion care," she added.

She also noted a lack of parity in business and political leadership.

"Only 20 percent of the United States Congress, counting both houses, are women," she said. "And the Republican Party has far fewer women in the House of Representatives and the Senate than the Democrats do. So Democrats are doing quite a bit better, but it's only 20 percent across the board. That's atrocious."

Another issue for women, adds O'Neill, is the lack of paid family medical leave in the U.S. She explained it's a huge hurdle for a lot of women in the workforce, in leadership positions, and just in general, to be able to have time to take care of their families.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - CT