Over the last year, I’ve been studying the suffrage movement. Some of those women spent their entire lives fighting for the right to vote. For 60, 70 years, they marched, protested and wrote letters. Whatever it took to make their voices heard, they did.
And 97 years ago, they marked an incredible achievement: They won the right to vote.
But our fight for equality is ongoing and unending. Women of color were too often left out of the suffrage movement and remained disenfranchised well after the 19th Amendment was adopted.
We’ve come a long way since then. But for as far as we’ve come, we still have so far to go. Our resistance lives in the long shadow of the historic accomplishments of suffragists and other activists, but they counted on us to keep fighting. We’re the rebirth of the women’s movement.
Every day when I go to work in the U.S. Senate, I think about the awesome privilege I have of being there. But I am also driven by the fact that I have too few female colleagues. Women should have representation equal to our share of the population. We should have half the seats in the Senate and House, and half our governorships.
And if we did, we’d achieve real equality on a whole range of critical issues. We’re fighting for equal pay for equal work. We’re fighting for paid family leave. We’re fighting for things like the right to make our own decisions about what’s right for our bodies.
We can achieve all of that and more, and the suffragists and activists who came before showed us how. The lessons of women’s progress in this country are clear: When you speak up, things change. When you advocate, things change. When you vote, things change. And when you run for office, you can win and bring change.
I know the fights we’re fighting today are hard, but so too were the ones our ancestors fought in the 1800s and early 1900s. And if they could spend their entire lives working toward the right to vote, we can keep resisting for at least two more years, then two years after that, and on and on until we’ve achieved the full equality for which the women we commemorate could only dream.
Women are leading the resistance, like we always have. We are carrying on this movement ‒ and we’re only just beginning.