Susan B. Anthony, a powerful voice in the women’s suffrage movement, once said: “There will never be complete equality until women themselves help to make laws and elect lawmakers.” Since the hard-won ratification of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution in 1919, which granted all American women the right to vote, women in Michigan and across the United States – women from every race, religion and political party – have used their voices and their votes to make historic contributions to the growth and strength of our great nation.
As we approach the 100th anniversary of American women’s suffrage in 2020, we are also experiencing many other exciting milestones for women voters and candidates, especially here in Michigan. As a founding member of the Women Officials Network (WON), I am especially thrilled to see so many women serving in public office. On the Oakland County Board of Commissioners, we have a majority of female members for the first time in the board’s history. Last November, Michigan elected women to every statewide office on the ballot: governor, U.S. senator, attorney general and secretary of state. In January 2019, a record-setting 102 women were seated in the U.S. House of Representatives. In this historic Congress, women comprise nearly a quarter of its voting membership for the first time ever.
On March 5th of this year, we marked another important milestone for Michigan women: the 100th anniversary of the first Michigan primary election in which women were able to vote. Michigan women headed to the ballot box to vote in a general election for the very first time on April 7, 1919. The battle for the right to vote was long and difficult. It took decades of marches, protests, petitions and public debate. It required the brave and tireless efforts of countless women working together to overcome strong opposition and longstanding barriers to women’s suffrage.
On May 8, 1917, Michigan Governor Albert E. Sleeper (R) signed a bill granting women the right to vote in presidential elections. After Alice Paul and other women’s rights activists picketed the White House, resulting in their imprisonment and subsequent hunger strikes, President Woodrow Wilson eventually reversed his position on women’s suffrage and declared his support in 1918. In November of that year, Michigan male voters approved the state constitutional amendment granting women the right to vote. On June 10, 1919, Michigan voters ratified the 19th Amendment, making the state just the second in the nation to do so. On August 26, 1920, voters across the nation secured the right for all American women to vote when the 19th Amendment was fully ratified. It was a long, difficult and dangerous fight, but at last women were granted the rights and responsibilities of voting citizens they so justly deserved.
Today, women comprise more than 52 percent of registered voters in Oakland County and wield more political power – as voters and as elected officials – in this nation than ever before. We are all individuals and have unique, intersecting identities. We have different positions on issues, different passions, priorities and political parties. Still, I hope we can continue to work together, as the suffragettes did all those years ago, to leverage our collective power in the areas where our passions and priorities overlap, in the spaces where we have shared interests and goals, so that we can continue to use or voices and our votes to improve the lives of women in our county, our country and the world.
Shelley Goodman Taub
Oakland County Commissioner
12th Commission District
Birmingham, Bloomfield Hills, part of Bloomfield Township