The 19th Amendment at 100: Women and the Right to Vote

with Jody Thomas of the National Foundation for Women Legislators

2020 marks the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote.

Explore the history of women’s suffrage and the status of women’s voter engagement today with Jody Thomas of the National Foundation for Women Legislators.

Posted on:

Mar 31, 2020

Hosted by: Tetiana Anderson
Produced by: National Newsmakers Team

Anderson: 2020 marks the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, granting women the constitutional right to vote. But the history of women's suffrage dates back decades earlier with women organizing, picketing outside the White House, and lobbying Congress and marching on the National Mall to win that right. Hello and welcome to "Comcast Newsmakers." I'm Tetiana Anderson. The 19th Amendment declares that the government cannot deny the right to vote based on sex. And joining me to discuss the history of women's suffrage and voter engagement for today's women is Jody Thomas. She is the executive director of the National Foundation for Women Legislators. And, Jody, thank you so much for being here.

Thomas: Thank you for having me.

Anderson: So, part of the work you do involves teaching women and girls about the whole suffrage movement and the 70-plus years it took to make that happen. Give us the brief backstory, the brief history.

Thomas: You know, people think, "Oh, this movement happened, and they picketed, and they did a few things, and then we got the right to vote." It took 72 years before we got the right to vote. And that was in August 26th of 1920 is Women's Equality Day now that we celebrate. And as a as a bipartisan organization for elected women, we really are taking advantage of that this year and doing a lot of projects and projects with young women and girls. It's important, you know? It's it's disconcerting for us sometimes that young people don't really know the Constitution, and we don't want young women to to take for granted the fight it took to get the right to vote.

Anderson: So, a lot of what you do does center around this sort of education piece programing to teach women and girls about the history of this movement. What are some of the things that you hear from them after they listen to what you all have to say? I mean, are there light-bulb moments here? Do they not know certain things?

Thomas: Oh, yeah. And, like, here I hear this from from my elected members all the time. One of their favorite things to do is to go to libraries. And there are numerous books on Susan B Anthony, children's books on Susan B. Anthony, and read it, and then we've got another little project that they do where they do some coloring. I'll show you that in a second. But it's astonishing that they don't know that women didn't have the right to vote at one time, and they're just like, "Well, my mom votes." And to instill in them that sense of pride and that it's something they need to take care of...

Anderson: That's why you do this

Thomas: ...and cherish. That's absolutely right. And every single one of those young women and girls can grow up to be anything she wants to be.

Anderson: So, you guys are working to get the message out about the 1 100th anniversary of women's suffrage. You're doing it with a particular prop. You brought her here.

Thomas: I did bring her.

Anderson: Who is this, and what are you doing with her?

Thomas: This is flat Suzanne.

Anderson: Okay.

Thomas: Take-off on the Flat Stanley -- Susan B. Anthony. And our elected women go into libraries and reading Susan B Anthony books and getting young girls to color her. We sent we sent the blank one to all of our elected women, and we're asking them to color her and take her to the state capital. And, you know, show that she is -- Susan B. Anthony is going to the state capital in Annapolis and Austin, wherever. And, so, our goal is 100 Flat Susans in 100 places in 100 days.

Anderson: And you want this to go viral?

Thomas: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. #NFWL.

Anderson: There's another popular example, a popular visual that does call attention to women's suffrage, and it's when we see women wearing white, certain women wearing white at certain times. Can you explain that?

Thomas: Yeah. Back when they were protesting, men wore black suits. They were all dressed in black, and women wore the white to just stand out even more, get media attention. If you saw, you know, a whole bunch of women in white, then the media's liable to, "Oh, you know, this is those suffrage women."

Anderson: Pay attention.

Thomas: Pay attention. Mm-hmm.

Anderson: A lot of your organization is about ending the divisiveness and toxicity that we can see happening in politics. And you say women are the ones who can do that. Why do you say that?

Thomas: I truly believe that. And I've seen it. It started during the government shutdown in 2013 that the women on the Hill were getting together. They'd been getting together for a long time for pizza and wine. And they they came up with a solution to stop the government shutdown, and then the next day, took it to leadership. And I've seen women do it over and over and over again at our conferences. We don't put an "R" or a "D" on anybody's name tag at our conference. It's just elected women that are there to learn, to learn from each other. And I see it working every time we get together that they work together on an issue, on learning an issue, on solving an issues. We do a lot on human-trafficking and things like that. And I know that women can get past this divisiveness, and that's what it's going to take is all of us working together to do that.

Anderson: Well, thank you for your work to make that happen. Jody, thank you so much for being here.

Thomas: Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.

Anderson: And thank you for joining us, as well. For more great conversations with leaders in your own community and across the nation visit I'm Tetiana Anderson.

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