Celebrate Women Gaining The Right To Vote - Honolulu Civil Beat

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About the Authors

Rosemarie Muller

Rosemarie Muller is a member of the American Association of University Women Hawaii Public Policy Committee and president of the League of Women Voters Hawaii County.

Joanna Amberger

Joanna Amberger is president of AAUW Honolulu. The American Association of University Women empowers women and girls through advocacy, education, philanthropy, and research. AAUW is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization with more than 170,000 members and supporters across the United States. Since AAUW’s founding in 1881, its members have examined and taken positions on the fundamental issues of the day — educational, social, economic, and political.


For most, August marks summer winding down. In pre-pandemic days, it would have meant those last weekends on the beach or family get-togethers before autumn begins.

But this August also saw one of the best primary voter turnouts in Hawaii’s history because of mail-in voting.

It’s a reminder that this month, 100 years ago, was an important milestone for women in America with the passage of the 19th Amendment — the amendment that finally allowed women to vote. It was built on the struggle of women since the founding of the United States of America.

History often glosses over, or completely ignores, much of the history of the women’s vote. Almost all of the colonies, with the exception of New Jersey, allowed women to vote.

Fifteen state legislatures granted women the right to vote by 1918, forcing then-President Woodrow Wilson to address a woman’s right to vote because of his upcoming reelection.

A picket line in 1917 in front of the White House. From “Women of Protest: Photographs from the Records of the National Woman’s Party,” Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. Flickr: U.S. Embassy The Hague

Hawaii did not become a state until 1959 so could not vote for or against the 19th Amendment, but the territory declared its support for ratification of the 19th Amendment on Nov. 20, 1920. This is now enshrined in the U.S. Constitution because of women who fought for their right to be heard through the ballot box: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”

For women in Hawaii, that monumental gain was also a reminder of what was lost when the Hawaiian Kingdom was overthrown. Hawaii’s ratification of voting rights for women was simply an endorsement of practices dating back to the Hawaiian Kingdom when women voted and held governing power in the 19th century, long before the United States.

Full Equality

The League of Women’s Voters was founded in 1920, just months before the 19th Amendment was adopted. This year, after decades dedicated to this goal, the League is celebrating the Centennial Year of the 19th Amendment along with the long running success of their organization. LWV Hawaii recognized Women’s Equality Day this past Wednesday, on Aug. 26, in celebration of the advancements that have been made towards achieving full political, economic and social equality. The date commemorates the adoption of the 19th Amendment, after decades of struggle, which granted voting rights for women.

The LWV Hawaii salutes 100 years of women’s rights and promoting the people’s right to vote. Women’s Equality Day is a celebration of trailblazers, visionaries, and suffragists who have worked towards equal rights for all. The American Association of University Women is committed to recognizing voting rights for women over the past century, including the fact that when the 19th Amendment was adopted, not all women were allowed to vote — especially black women who were denied voting because of poll taxes and literacy tests, which suppressed black voting at large. Black suffragettes were also sidelined by the mainstream suffragist movement out of fear of alienating white women, especially in the south.

It is time to celebrate and build on the heritage of the women’s suffrage movement — however, voter suppression continues to be real in 2020. All Americans should become involved in ensuring the failure of attempts to deprive citizens of their right to vote safely. The League’s purpose then and now, is to help all people carry out their responsibilities as voters.

Voter suppression continues to be real in 2020.

AAUW supports policies such as determining which states and localities have a pattern of discrimination and are subject to pre-clearance before making changes to voting practices, requiring officials to publicly announce all voting changes at least 180 days before an election and allowing for federal observers into any jurisdiction where there may be a substantial risk of discrimination at the polls on election day or during an early voting period.

There is still work for us to do, but we should celebrate the accomplishments of the activists and ordinary people who wanted to transform our society for the better. Reflect on how far we have come and look towards the future to see what steps we can take to ensure all women can fulfill their highest potential.

We ask that citizens take a moment to reflect that expanding the right to vote is fundamental for a democracy, and disenfranchisement of any group of people does a disservice to those that helped to make voting possible — even when Hawaii was a kingdom.

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About the Authors

Rosemarie Muller

Rosemarie Muller is a member of the American Association of University Women Hawaii Public Policy Committee and president of the League of Women Voters Hawaii County.

Joanna Amberger

Joanna Amberger is president of AAUW Honolulu. The American Association of University Women empowers women and girls through advocacy, education, philanthropy, and research. AAUW is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization with more than 170,000 members and supporters across the United States. Since AAUW’s founding in 1881, its members have examined and taken positions on the fundamental issues of the day — educational, social, economic, and political.


Latest Comments (0)

· 1 year ago

When my daughter was doing a school assignment on the 19th Amendment earlier this week, she discovered something unexpected, something I was totally unaware of: as it turns out, there was a strong anti-suffrage movement in the United States, led and supported almost exclusively by women. There were dozens of women-led anti-suffrage organizations around the country; the largest, the National Association Opposed to Women Suffrage (NAOWS), had at least 350,000 active members. I've been reading up on this for the past couple of days... It is amazing how much of our history we have completely forgotten or papered over!

Chiquita · 1 year ago

Thanks for helping mark this anniversary of women’s right to vote and Hawaii’s long history of being a leader in making democracy work.

JanetMason · 1 year ago

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