She Is Me, DEI and Other Thoughts about the League
As we stated in the COMMENTARY on the Suffrage Movement page, history of the suffrage movement in America did not always give the WHOLE STORY; it either minimized or left out entirely the efforts of African American and other women of color who were involved. Although the suffrage movement grew out of the Abolitionist movement in the 1840s with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B Anthony in common cause with with Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglas and others, that coalition began to fray after the Civil War and after African American men got the right to vote with passage of the 15th Amendment. As the fight for the woman's vote renewed in earnest in the 1870s, many African American women's achievements were not included in the march toward 1920.
So, as we approach the Centennial of women getting the right to vote, we want to bring out all of the stories of the suffrage movement in America, including the founding of the League of Women Voters in 1920. To bring attention to these omissions, the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in D.C. has dedicated an entire exhibit to these women who were mostly left out of the story. See the Centennial page for info on that exhibit entitled "Votes for Women: A Portrait of Persistence". And, the National Archives presented a panel discussion on African American Women in the Suffrage Movement and the Battle for the Vote on September 12, in the William G. McGowan Theater of the National Archives as part of the "Rightfully Hers" exhibit (also on the Centennial page).
In 2019 especially, these themes are being emphasized both by the League and others to highight the untold stories of the women of color who were fighting for the vote, too. This reckoning has caused the LWVUS to pass the Policy on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) which encourages us to reach out to ALL people to become part of the League, regardless of age, gender, gender identity, ethnicity or country of origin, among others. In this effort, the League recognizes that, even in its formation and in succeeding years, the League did not include women who did not look like its white founders. Embracing and acknowleging the mistakes of our past is part of moving toward becoming an intentionally inclusive organization that works to improve democracy for everyone.
In keeping with that theme, LWV has initiated the #SheIsMe campaign as part of the LWV Centennial Celebration. You can see how this all ties together in LWV CEO Virginia Kase's article published on Women's Equality Day, August 26, 2019:
Today we celebrate 99 years since women won the right to vote through the adoption of the 19th Amendment. Women’s Equality Day was created on this anniversary to raise awareness about the importance of gender equality and recognize the sacrifices made by the suffragists.As we kick off the centennial year of women winning the right to vote, we mustn’t romanticize the story of the 19th Amendment. The truth is, progress towards a more perfect democracy is often messy, and the 19th Amendment did not break down voting barriers for all women—and even today, there is more work to be done.We at the League are honoring Women's Equality Day by bridging the gap between our legacy and our destiny with She Is Me, a League-wide celebration of voting reformers from various backgrounds and experiences. Together, our collective efforts can create a more perfect democracy.So, as we celebrate the great achievement of the 19th Amendment, we should do so with the recognition that women’s suffrage was not perfect. Let us use the lessons of our history to inform our present and our future. Let us seek out ways to ensure all eligible voters have their voices heard and their votes counted.As we mark this historic anniversary, keep in mind how valuable our right to vote remains. Today we're reminded of how far we have come and how far we still must travel for true equality.Virginia Kase, CEO
Therefore, we invite you to peruse the various links included in this article and other pages of this and the LWVUS website, to read more about the WHOLE STORY.
Compiled by Sherry Zachry, LWVNCA Webmaster