The first gathering devoted to women’s rights in the United States was in 1848 in Seneca Falls, New York. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, a mother of four from upstate New York, and Lucretia Mott, a Quaker abolitionist, were the principal organizers of what came to be known as the Seneca Falls Convention. Stanton took a page from the Founding Fathers’ playbook drafting a “Declaration of Sentiments, Grievances, and Resolutions” that echoed the preamble of the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal.”
It still took many years of lobbying, but finally on January 10, 1918 the House of Representatives passed an initial voting rights amendment. It was over two more years until the 19th Amendment passed on August 26, 1920 providing full-voting rights for (white) women nationally, a full 72 years after Seneca Falls.
Voting Rights Act of 1965
Women’s Equality Day celebrates the historic day in 1920 when white women were granted the right to vote.
It actually wasn’t until four and a half decades later—on August 6, 1965 when The Voting Rights Act was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson–that all women in the United States were able to cast a ballot as full citizens. Of course, some states were more progressive than others in recognizing suffrage as a basic human right, but it is important to remember how recent this history really is.
Next year will mark the 50-year anniversary of when every American in all 50 states could legally vote–an important milestone in the history of our country.
What is the Gender Gap in Voting?
The gender gap in voting is the difference between the percentage of women and the percentage of men voting for a given candidate. In every presidential election since 1980, there has been a gender gap, with a greater proportion of women than men preferring the Democrat in each case. A gender gap was evident in the 2012 presidential election, with women favoring Barack Obama by 10 percentage points over Mitt Romney.
The gender gap widened considerably in 2012 with Latinos and African Americans, but also with whites. President Obama’s gender gap among whites grew and was larger than the gender gap among whites in the last four mid-term elections.
Women are clearly a powerful voting bloc and decide elections—and when women run, women turn out to vote in even higher numbers—even more reason to get women on the ballot. The gender gap shows that women voters matter both as voters and leaders.
Perspective on the Power of the “Women’s Vote”
Women make the difference.
According to exit polls, 53 percent of voters in the 2012 elections were women, which means that women determined the outcome of the presidential election.
Dianne Bystrom, the director of the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics at Iowa State University, says the reason the gender gap is critical is that more women are registered to vote than men in most states and there is a much higher female turnout rate at the polls. In the 2008 election, 10 million more women than men voted. The equation is simple: more female voters=more female power, especially in battleground states where women outvote men in the hundreds of thousands.
With women deciding the presidential election, and with record numbers of women in both the House and the Senate, America’s policies will look very different in the next decade than it did in the last. Women determine the outcome of the way the government looks, and now economic fairness, pay equity, and issues of work-family balance are making their way to the top of the policy agenda.