Estelle Schultz of Rockville, filled out her ballot this week as she has in every primary and presidential election since she was old enough. She values and exercises the right to vote because when she was born 98 years ago, women could not vote. This week she hoped to help elect the first woman president; it was not to be.
On the day after Election Day, when Hillary Clinton made her concession speech, that milestone, “the glass ceiling,” proved to be a stunning disappointment for Estelle Schultz and millions of women. In her concession speech, Hillary Clinton pointed out that the hard glass ceiling had many cracks but had not shattered. Speaking to the young women in the room she said, “Nothing has made me prouder than to be your champion. Someday, someone will shatter that glass ceiling.” The fight goes on.
The serious struggle for equality in women’s representation in political life began more than a century ago. Marked by protests, court challenges, jail for some, fines for others, the final result was the 19th Amendment. A California senator introduced the amendment in 1878, but it took 41 years to disrespect, disembowel, discuss, and finally pass the amendment in Congress. The ratification, state by state, ended with Tennessee’s final vote, a count of 50-49.
The leaders of the movement that got America recognizing one half the population were Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton who famously said, “The history of the past is but one long struggle to equality.”
There were men who also helped in the struggle. Mark Twain gave speeches infused with his wacky humor and a righteous sense that women should have the vote. “For twenty-five years, I‘ve been a woman’s rights man. I have always believed, long before my mother died, that with her gray hairs and admirable intellect, perhaps she knew as much as I did.”
This week, after voting, women in Rochester went to the cemetery where Susan B. Anthony is buried and affixed their voting stickers to her gravestone, many believing that the culmination of the struggle was the election of Hillary Clinton. It didn’t happen but the milestone is that she ran on a major party ticket. Near Susan B. Anthony’s grave, in the same cemetery is the grave of another fighter, Frederick Douglass, who also championed women’s right to vote.
In a speech at the historic Seneca Falls Convention, Mr. Douglass described men’s role in the struggle as “get out of her way and give her the fullest opportunity to exercise all the powers inherent in her individual personality. Her right to be and to do is as full and complete and perfect as the right of any man on earth.”
While Hillary Clinton will not enter history books as the first woman president, as Senator and Secretary of State, she has certainly had an important place in the history of women’s rights and achievements.
Editor’s note: Ms. Rojas is a regular contributor to the Dorchester Banner. These opinions are hers.