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Women's Equality Day

Friday, August 26, 2022
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Women marching for suffrage 1915 Library of Congress

Celebrate Women's Equality Day with the League of Women Voters on Thursday, August 26. 

Dr. Turner LWV President YouTube video message 

Dr. Deborah Turner, the League of Women Voters' President, has prepared a YouTube video message in honor of Women's Equality Day. View it here.

On August 26, 1920, the 19th Amendment of the United States Constitution, which gave women the right to vote, was certified. Thanks to Congresswoman Bella S. Abzug, this landmark moment is commemorated every August 26 as Women's Equality Day. 

By the time most American women finally secured their constitutional right to vote with the passage of the 19th Amendment, most women in Western states had been voting for years, even decades. The newly formed Western states, unencumbered by the institutions and traditions of the East, and hungry for new settlers, demonstrated a progressivism that led the nation. Wyoming Territory was a trailblazer, approving women's suffrage in 1869. The rest of the West followed suit: Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Washington, California, Oregon, Kansas and Arizona all approved women's suffrage before the 19th Amendment became law. 

Learn about Denver's Ellis Meredith on the Colorado Women's Hall of Fame website here.

According to Mike Erickson, Education Coordinator at the Center for Colorado Women's History: 

"The Colorado equal suffrage referendum in 1893 did not specify race. That being said, African American residents of Colorado could vote in elections. Black men could vote in Colorado before 1893 but we should note that societal, political, and sometimes economic pressures could hinder voting from any non-white Colorado resident. Denver had communities of African Americans that organized voters. Black Colorado residents may have found voting more or less accessible depending on the political climate of certain areas in Colorado. 

Black women could vote in Colorado after 1893 and there were a number of Black women organizers in Denver that campaigned for the referendum and worked to organize voters after it passed, especially Black women voters. These organizers included women like Elizabeth Piper Ensley, Ida DePriest, and Gertie N. Ross. Elizabeth Piper Ensley organized the Colored Women's Republican Club and was the Denver correspondent of the Women's Era, a national suffrage newspaper. You can find a blog post, Elizabeth Piper Ensley and the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, about her here

Black women and other women of color were eligible to vote, as long as they were citizens of the United States. This is where you'll find Native Americans and those of Asian descent barred from voting. Native Americans would not gain citizenship until 1924. (Many western states would still bar them from voting) and many Asian Americans would not be citizens until 1943. The southern states, which held the largest populations of African Americans, continued to disenfranchise Black residents with Jim Crow laws.

As you can imagine, voting rights history in the United States is very complex and answers can be found in more of a gray area.