Delaware celebrates 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment

DOVER, Del. – Almost one hundred people gathered on The Green in Dover, Wednesday morning, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment but participants say fighting for the rights of all voters still continues today.

“So we have to keep fighting. It’s something that is not finished yet,” says Rita Hollada, the president of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs (GFWC) Delaware. “Women weren’t citizens. They couldn’t own property. They couldn’t get a higher education. They were blocked in so many avenues. The 19th Amendment opened all of those avenues in addition to giving them the right to vote because it now recognized them as citizens.”

The amendment was ratified on August 18th, 1920, but wasn’t certified in Washington, D.C., until August 26th. “I think a lot of people don’t realize that people didn’t always just have the right to vote,” says Hollada.

Along with celebrating, organizers also hope this serves as a reminder of our history which isn’t always pretty. “Women were arrested. Women were beat up. There were women who went to jail and went on a hunger strikes and they were force-fed by having tubes inserted down their throat,” says Hollada.

In some cases, officials say pivotal advocates of the women’s suffrage movement are all too often glossed over or not even taught at all. “Black women were involved with the suffrage movement way back in 1847 and 1848 even though a lot of people don’t realize that because they think all black people were slaves at that time,” says Dr. Reba Ross Hollingsworth with the Women’s Suffrage Centennial Committee.

Organizers believe this historic anniversary is a reminder of the work that’s still left to be done. “I mean the 15th Amendment gave black men the right to vote but it didn’t mean they all could go vote because then there were all these other tests they had to pass and in the south that is still going on,” says Hollada.

This November, when people head to the polls, advocates hope they remember the power of each vote. “A lot of people think their vote doesn’t count or doesn’t matter without realizing that there are lots of elections that are won or lost by one vote,” says Dr. Hollingsworth.

Organizers say larger national celebration was originally planned in Washington, D.C. but of course COVID-19 changed those plans. However, other places across Delmarva including Lewes and Pocomoke City held their own celebrations for this historic anniversary.

On Wednesday morning, Governor John Carney signed a proclamation recognizing August 26th, 2020, as Women’s Equality Day.

Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester released the following statement in response to the proclamation:

“One Hundred Years Ago, today, the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was formally adopted, prohibiting states from denying a citizen the right to vote on the basis of sex. It took nearly half a century from the time it was introduced until the time it was ratified. Even after its ratification, state constitutions maintained loopholes to prevent up to 75 percent of Black women from using their franchise.

The introduction, passage, and ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment was a truly transformative period in our history. From Seneca Falls, to the halls of Congress, to the floors of state legislatures – achieving its final adoption was a truly incredible feat by truly incredible suffragists and their allies. These women advocated, marched, fought, and died for their right to make their voice heard at the ballot box. A century later, our work is far from over. While we have made major advances toward granting a true franchise to all of our citizens, much of that work has been clawed back in recent years.

And so today, on the centennial of its adoption, let us celebrate and commemorate the truly remarkable work of the women who came before us, let us acknowledge how much further we have to go to ensure that every citizen in this country – regardless of race, sex, station, history, or means is able to exercise their right to vote – and let us recommit ourselves to the hard work of securing that most sacred democratic right.”

Categories: Delaware, Local News