The Suffragette Parade in downtown Langley on Saturday served as a reminder that a woman’s right to vote did not come easily. In the United States, it took decades of effort by courageous women to finally win the right to vote. The 19th Amendment was eventually ratified, allowing women to vote for president for the first time in 1920.
The Langley parade featured marchers and hecklers, just like the real thing back in the 19th and 20th centuries. Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” which Lincoln credited with contributing to the Civil War, went on to argue for women’s rights even after slavery ended and African American men could vote. In 1869 she compared the state of women to that of slaves regarding property rights. “She can make no contract and hold no property; whatever she inherits or earns becomes at that moment the property of her husband,” she wrote. “In the English common law a married woman is nothing at all. She passes out of legal existence.”
Today, we are shocked at the condition of women’s rights in Afghanistan and other backward countries, but it wasn’t so long ago that women in North America were in the same situation. Less than 100 years ago they could not vote and they basically belonged to their husbands. Divorce was next to impossible. Contraception was outlawed. It took centuries to break these legal bonds, and even today the women’s rights movement is alive and necessary. There’s still the “glass ceiling,” continuing battles over reproductive rights, and the lack of child care to help them reach their dreams. Only months ago they won the right to fight for their country in combat.
It’s odd that men have for centuries repressed women. We need them to produce our greatest natural resource – our children – and yet we’ve treated them like second class citizens and wasted that precious resource through, in many cases, lack of nutrition, education and other types of support.
There’s a long list of women’s milestones worldwide that can be found on Google. It starts in 1921, perhaps because there were no milestones before that. In that year, Sweden adopted equal marriage rights. In 1928, Mexico passed an equal marriage laws. In 1930, divorce was legalized in Peru. In 1934 in Turkey, women were allowed to stand for election.
The list goes on and on, and it’s a list that needs to grow until women have equal rights all over the world. Congratulations to the Langley Main Street Association bringing the Suffragette movement to life.