Any CHEER for the centennial of women's right to vote has to be modified by a JEER for how unfathomably long it took before all females in America had that basic right.

America is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the passage in 1920 of the 19th Amendment, which made it legal for white women to vote.

It was a long and frustrating road for women to get to that point. And the angst would continue for women of color for many more years.

Male and female Native Americans earned the right to cast ballots alongside men in 1924, with passage of the Indian Citizenship Act. 

Women of Chinese descent were accorded that right in 1943, when the Magnuson Act allowed Chinese immigrants to achieve U.S. citizenship, which included the right to vote.

But, in a piece of history that stands as a stark embarrassment to this great nation, Black and Latino women were not allowed in the voting booths until 1965. 

That year, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law, prohibiting voting discrimination based on “race, color or national origin.”

Most people these days, if told that a country does not allow women to vote, would assume it to be a backward, third-world nation. But our own America, during our lifetimes, would not give Black and Latino women the ability to influence policy through voting.

And getting approval to vote doesn't mean it was easy to do so, especially for women of color. They still faced harassment even after having achieved the legal right.

Imagine the fortitude and bravery of all the women involved in the suffrage movement. They faced anger and insults from most men and were shunned by other women who saw them as rabble rousers who didn't know their place.

The North Country had its share of women who protested, pushed and preached as part of the national suffrage battle, as the Press-Republican outlined in its special package of articles this past weekend.

"It was radical, and it was courageous, and the actions that these women took really heralded the call and demand for women's suffrage," Dr. Michelle Cromwell, SUNY Plattsburgh's vice president for diversity, equality and inclusion, told a Women's Equality Day forum that had to be held virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The suffrage effort also demanded tenacity. When, in 1870, the 15th Amendment allowed men of color the same voting rights as white males, women still could not help decide who would lead their communities, state or nation.

A women's suffrage amendment was introduced in January 1878, but it failed then. And again in 1914. And in 1918. And in February 1919.

Finally, in spring of 1919, Congress passed the 19th Amendment. The states trickled in with ratification until it was finally adopted as part of the U.S. Constitution on Aug. 26, 1920.

Want to know the best way we can honor those amazing women who fought for decades for a right that should have belonged to every American from the start?

Celebrate their achievement on this centennial, for sure. But also demand that every American has the opportunity to vote this Nov. 3, despite the challenges posed by politics, discrimination and COVID-19.

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