By: Paola Aguilar
On August 18th in 1920, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States was ratified. The 19th Amendment granted women the constitutional right to vote. While the Women’s Suffrage movement in the United States can be dated back to different specific moments, the most prominent and well-known event that started the Women’s Suffrage movement was the first women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls, New York in July of 1848. The convention was organized by abolitionists Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott. After this convention, Stanton and Mott were joined by many other women, including Susan B. Anthony and Alice Paul, in a national effort to grant women’s suffrage. In rallies and marches, the suffragettes wore ribbons that were white, purple and gold and the predominant color of their attire was white. Purple was to represent loyalty, and steadfastness to a cause while white was symbolic of purity and the quality of the cause.
This tradition started by the suffragettes is now carried on in their honor by women who have made ground-breaking accomplishments and who have paved the road for many other women who seek to be leaders in the United States government.
In 1968, Shirley Chisholm became the first African American woman to be elected to congress (. Shirley was also the first African American to run for President of the United States and the first woman to run for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination in 1972. On Chisholm’s posters for her run for President, she wore white.
Chisholm was succeeded in the House of Representatives by Geraldine Ferraro. In 1984, Ferraro was the first woman to be the vice presidential nominee for a major party in the United States. She was nominated on the same ticket as Walter Mondale and when she accepted the nomination at the 1984 Democratic National Convention, Geraldine Ferraro wore a white suit.
At the 2016 Democratic National Convention this summer, Hillary Clinton became the first woman nominated for president by a major party in the United States and of course, she also donned a white suit when accepting the nomination.
I won’t lie, I definitely teared up when I watched Hillary accept the nomination for President at the DNC this summer. Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve always dreamed of the day that a female president would be elected. I have always been extremely interested in politics from a young age and grateful for the opportunities I have today as the result of the work done by women before me. However, it’s been difficult to dream of being what I can’t see. It’s been difficult to realistically imagine the possibilities of what offices I could hold within the United States government when so few women are elected officials in our country. Today at the age of 23, I have the goal of one day becoming a United States Senator. With opportunity and hard work, I hope to have the honor of running for President of the United States. It hasn’t been until now that I have seen the realistic possibility of a woman being elected to the highest office in the land. However, I look at my nieces at the ages of 4 and 2 and realize what a different vision of what they can accomplish they will have. There’s a good chance that the first president they will ever remember will be a woman.
There has been an upsurge in asking people to wear white on election day in honor of the suffragettes and the many women who have laid down the ground work for us to be able to vote for a woman who is the nominee of a major party for President of the United States. On November 8th, it will be nearly 100 years since the 19th amendment was ratified. 100 years ago, I and all other women could not vote. While we still fight for gender equality, I reflect in awe at how far we have come.
Although I have cast my ballot early, I will wear white on November 8th as a symbol of the work done by the suffragettes, by every woman who has spoken or written about the need for gender equality, by the women who became the “first” in their fields, and the work done by the everyday woman who does what she can to make the world a better place. I will wear white in hopes that when my nieces vote for the first time, the idea of a female president will no longer be a radical one. I ask that on this election day, you also wear white to commemorate the great gains in gender equality that have been made since the work done by the suffragettes.