Do you remember the first time you went to the polls to vote in an election? I certainly do, though back then I thought of it more as an exciting coming-of-age privilege than a hard-fought woman’s right.
The women’s suffrage movement is a fascinating yet often under-taught period in U.S. history, and this month marks the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment that gave us this very right. Though for our black sisters, it took longer as many states passed laws that discriminated against African Americans and limited their freedoms.
History puts the suffrage movement’s start as 1848 at the Seneca Falls Convention, where the goal was first proposed. That means it took 72 years at minimum for women to win the right. Interestingly enough, only one woman at this convention was still alive to vote when the amendment finally passed. Charlotte Woodward Pierce was a teenager at Seneca Falls and 91 years old when she voted for the first time.
That brings us to right now. Just like we feel an obligation as leaders and member of NAWBO to carry on the incredible legacy of the women who founded NAWBO and fought for things like our right to take out a business loan without a male co-signer and to have equal access to procurement opportunities, we should be moved and honored to exercise our right to vote.
We owe it to women like Susan B. Anthony, the most well-known suffrage speaker and strategist; Elizabeth Cady Stanton, the writer and theorist who worked closely alongside Anthony; Alice Paul, who proposed the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution; and Fannie Lou Hamer, Ella Baker and Diane Nash, black women who continued the fight for voting rights for all, culminating in the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. And the list goes on, and on.
At NAWBO National, we have worked far too hard, and for too long, to not have our NAWBO voices heard on the issues that are most important to us as women and women business owners. So while we are proud to be a bi-partisan organization, and will not be endorsing candidates in this election cycle, we would love to see all our members exercise their right and have their voice heard—whatever it might be!
In just a little over a month, we will continue to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment as well as NAWBO’s milestone 45th anniversary as part of our Virtual National Women's Business Conference hosted by NAWBO. I am so excited for this event and the amazing speakers and content that will deliver all the inspiration, education—and fun, of course—that we need right now. The conference theme really says it all: “Brave Is.”
I hope to “see” you there and at the polls!
—Cristina Morales Heaney
2020-2021 NAWBO National Board Chair
What Voting Means to Me
“For me, having the right to vote means democracy in action, not just words.”
“It means I have a voice in the choices presented to us as a democracy. Even in the local level.”
“It means I have the power to make my voice heard, as well as participate in the election process to help further the causes/candidates that are most important to me.”
“It means everything. It’s a representation of democracy. It’s my voice. It’s the foundation of freedom. It’s correction when something veers off course. It’s what we fight for and continue to fight for.”
"It means I made the right decision to make the United States my country of choice and that when I cast my vote, I get to exercise my constitutional rights.”