As members of the Santa Barbara County Women’s Commission, we strongly encourage all citizens to vote, but we especially implore women to exercise their hard-earned right.
When California became the 31st state in 1850, women did not have the same rights as men, including the right to vote. Around that same time, however, a women’s movement was organized across the country that published “Declaration of Rights and Sentiments” that began by stating, “We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men and women are created equal … ”
By 1865, slavery and involuntary servitude were abolished in the United States, but women of all races were not considered equal under the law. Married women had no right to their property or children, they could not serve on juries, and they could not vote. In 1870, the 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was approved, which prohibited federal and state governments from denying a citizen the right to vote based on race, color, or previous condition of servitude, but not on gender.
Nevertheless, brave women, known as suffragists, tirelessly protested to force the government to give women the vote. Despite a violent campaign against them, their voices were heard. In 1911, California became one of the first states to give all citizens — men and women — the right to vote. The federal government finally ratified the 19th Amendment in 1920 giving that right to all women. The women behind the suffragist movement knew that the only way to guarantee women the same rights as men was to first gain the right to vote.
Women’s rights are simply human rights and the way to equality and well-being for all through our democratic process. Regardless of political views, voting is essential to ensure all citizen’s choices are counted. On November 6, exercise your right — VOTE — and make your voice heard!
Karen E. Steinwachs is vice chair of the Santa Barbara County Women’s Commission.