Shirley and Susan Don’t Have to Compete: The Progress of Women’s Suffrage

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In 1872, Susan B. Anthony voted illegally in the presidential election and was fined $100.

In 1920, the 19th Constitutional Amendment was ratified, allowing women the right to vote.

In 1965, the Voting Rights Act forced states to stop discriminatory voting practices against people based on race.

On January 25, 1972 Shirley Chisholm formally launched her presidential bid in a Baptist church in Brooklyn.

On January 3 1993, Carol Moseley Braun was sworn into the United States Senate, the first and only Black woman to hold that title. She ran for the Democratic nomination for president in 2004.

The legacies of women in politics in this country all build together to make for a comprehensive herstory in the telling of America.

On Tuesday, November 8, 2016, millions of people lined up across the country to vote in a historic election with a woman candidate on the ballot for president representing a major political party. She did not do this alone. Hell-raising women throughout history (and in the present) have contributed to this moment in a number of ways. Hillary Clinton’s nomination is something all American women should be proud of. I have worked tirelessly for her to be elected and I am grateful for the opportunity to have done so.

The first election I ever actively paid attention to was the 2008 presidential campaign of Barack Obama and John McCain. The idea of a Black man as president and having a first family that looked like mine was exciting, and when he was elected, I was overwhelmed.

My family traveled to DC for the inauguration and it began my 8-year infatuation with the Obama family. While they have been the epitome of class and grace during their time in the White House, they have also brought to light some difficult conversations about race that needed to be had.

Regardless as to how you feel about Obama policy wise, he and Michelle have forced a national conversation on race that only having a Black president will do. Because of their legacy and hard-working organizers across the country, the 2016 political conversation included a major focus on criminal justice reform, institutional racism, and mass incarceration. As a Black person, these issues matter to me and a national conversation on them is very much overdue.

In that same breath, there are issues with gender that are overdue as well, and the nomination of Hillary Clinton allowed those issues to be at the forefront. Maternity leave, equal pay, affordable childcare, and other “women’s issues” have dominated the conversation about the first woman president. As a woman, these issues matter to me as well and they deserve a national conversation. Black women live at the intersection of race and gender in a way that makes our experience different than Black men and different than white women. This intersectionality makes us inherently more vulnerable because we struggle with sexism and racism. Keeping this in mind, conversations about race are as important as conversations about gender for Black women, and while we still have a long way to go, the fact that these conversations are being had is a step in the right direction.

Candidates are humans like the rest of us and thus will never be perfect. But the choice between Hillary Clinton and her opponent in this election was simple: progression and regression. Hillary Clinton looked to build on the legacy of President Obama and move the country forward and built her campaign on LGBT rights, immigration, women’s rights, student loan debt, raising the minimum wage, affordable childcare—the list goes on and on.

These are issues that affect the quality of life for Americans all across the country every day. The history of America has one narrative, and that is that progress is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s a journey, and we have to take it one step at a time.

The legacies of women in politics in this country all build together to make for a comprehensive herstory in the telling of America. We should celebrate Susan and Shirley and Hillary because they all contribute to the story that makes up America.

Lauren D. Zehyoue

My name is Lauren Zehyoue. Things I am passionate about: Faith, People and Politics. In that Order. Love is the mission, the means, and the motive. Never lose focus of that. You can count on me to give you the real.

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