Written by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand
It was 91 years ago today that women finally won the right to vote with the enactment of the 19th amendment, which states, “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”
In an era when women occupy corner offices, serve as Supreme Court justices and travel the world representing America as our Secretary of State, it is easy to forget that it’s been less than a century since we won this right.
So, today, as we look back and celebrate this victory, I am inspired by the extraordinary women who waged the battles to end slavery and for women’s suffrage. From Sojourner Truth, to Susan B. Anthony, Jeannette Rankin, Shirley Chisholm, Geraldine Ferraro, Hillary Clinton, Sandra Day O’Connor, and Sonia Sotomayor – women have always blazed a path for the next generation to carry the torch further.
Which is why I created Off The Sidelines, an initiative to urge more women to get involved in the political process and to make their voices heard. Off The Sidelines is about raising awareness for the need for a reinvigorated modern women’s movement so that more women become a part of the debate and are at the table when decisions that impact us every day are made.
The fact is, we still have a long way to go until women have full equality. Currently, in the US, women make on average 78 cents for every dollar a man makes; even though women make up 51% of the population, we hold just 17% of seats in Congress and only 6 governorships; and as a result of the 2010 election, for the first time in 30 years, the percentage of women in Congress actually declined. This is unacceptable.
If we’re going to turn this around, more women must engage on the issues they care about. There are extraordinary women’s groups and activists, like EMILY’s List, Women’s Campaign Forum, ERLC, Emerge America and many others, that are doing amazing work every day fighting the battles that must be waged. But they can’t do it alone.
The fact remains that too many women are sitting on the sidelines and we must get them involved. It can be as simple as registering to vote, writing a letter to the editor, giving money to a female candidate who shares your values or running for office yourself. There are so many ways we can get more women involved in the political process.
For me, getting off the sidelines means women making a difference by letting their voices be heard on the issues they care about. I hope you’ll sign up at Off The Sidelines and tell me in one sentence what getting off the sidelines means to you.
In nine short years we will mark a full century since women won the right to vote. This next decade will be crucial not only for the future of women but for the future of America. I know we can and will do more because we have to. We are the solution.
Together, we can work toward full equality for women by urging our friends and our family to get off the sidelines and get engaged.
Because only when every woman and girl fulfills her God given potential can America achieve hers.
Photo from azipaybarah via flickr creative commons