What to do if the Daily Mail newspaper brands you with a seemingly derogatory moniker? Why not, as in the case of the suffragettes, reclaim it as your own? That’s what the women of the late 19th and early 20th century demonstrations for equal rights did. With cunning and gumption, they refused to be discouraged and proudly called themselves suffragettes.
This is just one example of the spirit of the suffragette movement, which we celebrate today, along with all women’s accomplishments, during International Women’s Day.
Globally observed on March 8, IWD honors women’s advancement and serves as a continual call to ensure that equality is maintained in all aspects of life. Because it has its roots in the suffragist movement, today we feel truly inspired by the ladies who worked so hard for so many years to earn the women’s vote.
Facing imprisonment and other forms of persecution, the suffragettes rarely backed down. Even to the point of intense weakness, they led hunger strikes. During World War I they took on more traditionally male roles and proved they could pull their weight. All with the vision of casting their vote and being counted as citizens.
Many fought with this vision in mind, knowing well they would not be present at its fruition. They trusted the vision anyway. Just before retiring, one of the foremost American suffragettes, Susan B. Anthony was asked if American women would ever be given the vote. She replied:
It will come, but I shall not see it…we can no more deny forever the right of self-government to one-half our people than we could keep the Negro forever in bondage. It will not be wrought by the same disrupting forces that freed the slave, but come it will, and I believe within a generation.
With the motto “failure is impossible” as her legacy, she died encouraging her “girls.”
On August 26, 1920, 14 years after Susan B. Anthony’s death, the nineteenth amendment to the U.S. Constitution awarded women the right to vote in the United States.
Although Indian women are believed to have enjoyed equal status with men in ancient times, they didn’t win the vote before 1950, when the Indian Constitution was adopted. Interestingly, India has beaten the western world to the punch with their current female president, Her Excellency Pratibha Devisingh Patil. Patil was sworn in on July 25, 2007, and is the first woman to hold the position.
Looking at these inspiring pictures from the suffragist movement makes us proud to be women…what about you?!