Women voters in Temple community commemorate suffrage centennial

After 100 years, women remember the struggle for voting rights as they cast their ballots.

Joy Jones, 39, a cook at Delaware Valley University, stands outside the Liacouras Center for early voting on Oct. 26. Jones said she is proud of the work women have done to gain the right to vote and have their voices heard. | NATALIE KERR / THE TEMPLE NEWS

A hundred years ago on Aug. 28, the 19th Amendment was adopted nationwide, ensuring that no citizen would be denied the right to vote on account of their sex.

But the fight for the right to vote began long before that, as the first meeting for the Women’s Suffrage Convention of Pennsylvania was held in West Chester in 1852, the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin reported. 

This year marks the centennial of the 19th Amendment which granted women the right to vote in United States elections.  Women voters in the North Central community feel it’s important to commemorate suffrage and female representation in politics by voting to voice their opinions.

Today’s general election could end in historic results, as Sen. Kamala Harris could be the first woman, Black woman and Asian American to serve as vice president.

Carolyn Kitch, a journalism professor and contributor to the academic journal “Front Pages, Front Lines: Media and the Fight for Women’s Suffrage,” said that in recent years there has been an increase in the number of women who ran for office and won. 

“People who normally would not have voted at all came out and voted because they had met these people,” Kitch said. “It was a remarkable number of women, especially young women.”

It’s important for college students in urban areas to vote and pay attention to politics because many people rely on public funding for services like sanitation and public schools, said Barbara Ferman, a political science professor. 

“Those are forces for change,” Ferman said. “Things have to happen at all levels.”

Seeing female representation in politics makes Francesca Capozzi excited to vote in the anniversary of the 19th Amendment.

“It allows for more women, female voices, to be brought into the conversation so that really important issues like reproductive health, women’s rights, equality for all, wage gap, stuff like that can be addressed and can be dealt with properly,” said Capozzi, a senior political science major and former Student Body President.

While the 19th Amendment was ratified in 1920, the right to vote for women did not encompass all women, Kitch said. 

Black women were not present at the Seneca Falls Convention, the site of the first women’s rights conference where women discussed representation and equality, according to the History Channel website.  Many women of color were not able to vote until the 1960s, when the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed, CNN reported. 

Ferman said the hundredth anniversary of the 19th Amendment is still an important milestone to commemorate because voting began the push for women’s rights in other areas, like the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which not only prohibited discrimination based on race, but also on gender, according to the National Parks Service.

One Philadelphia woman, Dora Lewis, was arrested multiple times at sit-ins and protests for women’s suffrage, the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin reported in 1917. In 1917, Lewis was arrested while carrying a banner that read “We of the United States are interested only in human liberty,” a quote from former President Woodrow Wilson. 

This year, Akshaya Ramaswamy, a senior neuroscience major, is excited about the election because she sees her own identity as an Asian American woman being represented by Harris. 

“It’s so important that representation is there,” she said. “Not just that she’s Black but she’s also Asian American.”

Joy Jones, 39, a cook at Delaware Valley University, voted at the Liacouras Center on Oct. 26. Jones, who lives on 24th Street near Lehigh Avenue, said she is voting with racial injustices and economic relief in mind.

She is proud to vote because of the long struggle for women’s suffrage, she said.

“We fought for that right for so long just to be able to vote as women,” Jones said. “It’s always good to be heard.” 

Voting is a part of activism, helping people push for social change and have voices heard by those in power, Kitch said.

“The wording of the 19th Amendment says that voting rights shall not be denied,” Kitch added. “I think that’s what we saw on the streets this summer, that rights shall not be denied.”

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