A century ago, most women in the United States didn’t have the equal right to vote. That all changed when the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified in August of 1920.
In time for International Women's Day on March 8, Genealogy site Ancestry is celebrating 100 years of women’s suffrage by highlighting some of the women who fought for it, usually against extreme odds, backlash and violence. Remember, suffragettes needed to convince all-male legislatures to vote to extend the franchise.
A spot made in-house by Ancestry promotes the brand’s “Make Them Count” site, which lets users find their own connections to suffragettes. “Important historic milestones remind us of where we’ve been but also where we’re going,” said Jennifer Utley, director of research at Ancestry in a statement. “Learning our ancestors’ stories gives them power. If you think about it, it’s very possible your great-great grandmother couldn’t vote. You can, and it’s because of the women who fought for your rights.”
To kick it off, Ancestry traced the descendants of four different women who worked for the vote. Jeannette Rankin was the first woman to serve in the House of Representatives, when she was elected from Montana in 1916. Her great nieces Janet and Shoshana Schiff live in New Jersey, and Janet can remember Rankin babysitting her.
Dan Duster is the great grandson of the famed African American journalist Ida B. Wells, one of the founders of the NAACP. Tyler Boyd and James (Jack) Burn are the great grandchildren of Febb Ensminger Burn, who convinced her son to cast the deciding vote that ratified the 19th Amendment.
And Cathy Hughes, founder and chairwoman of Urban 1 Inc., is the great-granddaughter of Charlotta Pyles, who escaped slavery in Kentucky and became a compatriot of Frederick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony and Lucretia Mott.
The history of voting also takes on renewed importance in 2020, a presidential election year. “2020 is an important time for us to reflect back on the fight for voting access,” added Dr. Lisa Tetrault, associate professor at Carnegie Mellon University and women’s rights expert. “The 19th Amendment was one part of a long, multi-generational movement fueled by diverse, incredible women.”