January 30, 2020 2 minutes to read · 400 words

100 Years Strong: The 19th Amendment

By Mala Sharma

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"We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

Many will identify this as a quote from the Declaration of Independence. It is not. It is actually taken from the “Declaration of Sentiments” adopted at the Seneca Falls Convention, a gathering in Seneca Falls, New York, in July 1848 that marked the start of the women’s rights movement in the United States. With this bold statement, declaring that “men and women are created equal,” the delegates made clear their intention: Women should have the right to vote. It was a long, hard fight. In 1869, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony formed the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA) with the goal of a constitutional amendment that would give women the right to vote.

 

That reality came true decades later. On June 4, 1919, the U.S. Senate passed the 19th amendment and it was sent to the states for ratification. It was formally ratified on August 18, 1920. The 19th Amendment changed the lives of all women in the United States by granting women the right to vote. It reads:

The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.

Why did it take so long for this kind of progress? Some opposition was predictable: Women, it was said, belonged in the home in order to cook, clean, and care for the family. Other opposition was unique and based on the fear that women would form together in a voting bloc, affecting the outcome of elections. In today’s world, we simply call it identity politics, where political campaigns now tailor their message specifically to groups of voters. That is, any wise candidate would identify significant voter blocs (such as women, minorities, college students, or retirees) and then given considerable thought as how to reach and engage these groups. In modern politics, savvy politicians realize it is wise to identify as many voting blocs as possible, learn their concerns, craft a meaningful message, and tailor their political approach to maximize their voting base. Thus, this fear arising in the 19th century has evolved into sound political practice in the 21st century. Our democracy is best served by equality. Cheers to Women Power and ongoing women empowerment!

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Mala Sharma practices family and personal injury law with her family at the Law Offices of Sharma & Associates, founded in 1997. She has been appointed to leadership roles in the American Bar Association GPSolo and YLD Divisions, is a board member of the Houston Trial Lawyers Association, past president of the Houston Northwest Bar Association, and prior board member of the South Asian Bar Association. She is also a member of the Houston Bar Association. Mala has been named in 2019 and 2020 as a Texas Rising Star by Super Lawyers and included in Texas Monthly's Top Women Attorneys in Texas special section for 2019 and 2020. Mala has also been selected as one of the 10 Best Attorneys by the American Institute of Personal Injury Attorneys for 2018–2020, a Top 40 Under 40 by the National Trial Lawyers for 2018–2020, and a Texas Top 10 Personal Injury Attorney by Attorney and Practice Magazine for 2019-2020. She can be contacted at 281/893-8644 or by e-mail at mala@sharmalaws.net.

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