Every year in March since 1994, we celebrate Women’s History Month. We honor women’s contributions in American history, recognizing their social, economic, cultural, and political achievements. However, after more than a century of fighting to be equal, women are still behind in the race for equality.
What are the obstacles for women within the 14th and 19th Amendments?
The 14th Amendment, which passed in 1868, describes U.S. citizens' rights, privileges, and immunities. It says no state should deprive any person of life, liberty, property, or equal protection of the laws.
This Amendment gave former slaves equal protection under the law, but all women, regardless of race, were excluded. Why? Because women were their husbands' property —they had no legal existence apart from their husbands, and the government controls the law. Today, the government still tries to rule over women’s freedom, rights, privileges, and bodies.
“The civil law, as well as nature herself, has always recognized a wide difference in the respective spheres and destinies of man and woman. Man is or should be, woman’s protector and defender. The natural and proper timidity and delicacy which belongs to the female sex evidently unfits it for many of the occupations of civil life.” — Justice Joseph Bradley
The Women’s Rights Movement has won many battles, but each of them comes with new obscure obstacles that make equality challenging to achieve.
One example of this is the 19th Amendment. In 1920, women could vote, but not all women. African American women, Native American women, and women from other races couldn’t vote then. Race equality under the 14th Amendment fails to fulfill its promise once again.
Yes, for women of color, the 19th amendment looked very different. The Jim Crow laws prevented millions of Black women from being in the registration books. Black women fought hard and waited five decades to exercise the right to vote.
In 1920, Native Americans weren’t allowed to be U.S. citizens so that native American women couldn’t vote. In 1924, the Snyder Act admitted Native Americans born in the U.S. to full U.S. citizenship. Even though Native Americans now have citizenship, as late as 1962, states prevented them from voting by creating obstacles such as literacy tests or claims that residents on a reservation were not state residents.
“There is a sorry situation in the United States, which is essentially that poor women don’t have a choice. Women of means do.” — U.S. Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Two examples help us understand the struggles women have endured through years of fighting for their rights, from their hometowns to the Supreme Court. The fight has been successful but has never stopped.
Women are still fighting for equality, reproductive rights, freedoms, and privileges. The more battles women overcome, the more obstacles are put in place by systems, institutions, and policies. As a woman, knowing the history of our fight and the sacrifices that women of all races have endured, I understand my responsibility to advocate for women’s rights and freedom. I stand with the National Women’s History Alliance 2021 theme: “Valiant Women of the Vote: Refusing to be Silenced.” Visit our DE&I page to read more about our initiatives and resources.