The United States of America is a constant work in progress. We are in a never ending pursuit of that more perfect Union that men and women have, over the centuries, fought and died for. We continually strive and reach for the benchmarks set out by our Founders, though we often struggle to get there. Afterall, progress is something that comes in increments at times and not in waves.
The march towards a more equitable society has in many moments of our history not been quite a march but more of a zig-zagged, clumsy walk where sometimes a step forward was followed by two steps back. We remain fiercely proud that through adversity and overcoming long odds, the great American experiment – despite the efforts of those within and outside this country to erode our confidence in our institutions and the idea of America itself – is still standing and will do so for years to come.
It’s often said that the 20th century was the American Century, so-called because of America’s arrival onto the international stage and due to the advancements and cultural impact the nation had on the rest of the world. One of the oft-overlooked shining moments of the 20th century for the United States, amidst so many triumphs and gutting tragedies, took place on August 18, 1920 – the day the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified, thereby guaranteeing women the right to vote.
There is a very important caveat to that though, despite women being guaranteed the right to vote. Women of color had to wait nearly a half century after the fact, in 1965, for their right to vote to truly be protected by the law. Unfortunately, it’s a reminder that in America sometimes progress, great as it may be, comes in an uneven way and doesn’t immediately touch society as a whole.
Due to the tenacity and grit of remarkable women like Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott and Susan B. Anthony, women have played an important role in shaping our political landscape and, more times than not, showing our country the way forward.
It must be a profound feeling for Senator Kamala Harris of California to officially become the Democratic Nominee for Vice President of the United States the same week we celebrate 100 years since women were granted the right to vote, and the first woman of color to ever be nominated as part of a presidential ticket for a major party.