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President's Message - September 2019 - Lawyers Club of San Diego
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The Impact Of Voting: 100 Years Of Women Suffrage



Elvira Cortez, Lawyers Club President 2019-2020

Lawyers Club of San Diego promotes nonpartisan advocacy for policies to establish real gender equity in the workplace and society. To achieve important policy goals, like equal pay and paid family leave, it will take collective action to persuade both Democrats and Republicans to pass the necessary legislation. Our history shows that only concerted, collective action can lead to real change, which is evident as we celebrate the centennial of the passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution.


Beginning as early as the 1840s, the women’s suffrage movement gained national recognition at the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848.  Lead by determined leaders and organizers like Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucy Stone, and Sojourner Truth, many women organized for decades to create the political pressure necessary to pass the 19th Amendment. In 1913, women’s suffrage leaders organized the Women Suffrage Procession, the first political large-scale march in the nation’s capital. Eventually, the movement included hundreds of thousands of women who won political support for suffrage through committed and unified action.


Such committed and unified action is just as important now for women as it was in 1919. Even after 100 years of enfranchisement, significant inequities remain for women, which include:


that women earn only 81% of the wages earned by men (65% for black women and 62% for Latinas);


that women are underrepresented in leadership positions in business and the legal profession; and


the lack of mandatory paid family leave.


Women’s rights have also suffered under a recent political backlash. For example, over the past three years, nineteen states have passed bills imposing more than 173 new restrictions on abortion, the government attempted to repeal the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”), which contains significant maternity and reproductive coverage, and the government issued rules to allow employers to restrict access to birth control under the ACA.


Despite the backlash, proponents of women’s rights have continued to push for gender equity. Echoing the 1913 march on Washington, the 2017 Women’s March showed that feminists are just as energized to continue the fight for equity. The 2018 midterm election was also a step in the right direction for women. Fifty-five percent of eligible women voted in the midterm (a 12% increase and 3.2% more than men) and a record number of women (127) were voted into Congress. In commemoration of the passage of the 19th Amendment, in addition to concerted advocacy, women should increase voter turnout and vote for representatives that understand the need for gender equity and pass important legislation, including securing the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment.


As we celebrate women’s suffrage as a momentous achievement for women, we must remember that true equity cannot be accomplished without commitment and unified action. We must not only continue the push for true gender equity but also fight to maintain the hard-fought policies we have obtained. One way each of you can further our cause is to join us at our next luncheon—Lawyers Club’s Diverse Women’s Committee  September Luncheon—which will feature a panel of elected officials, all women of color, to discuss the path to achieve elective office. I hope to see you at our first luncheon!

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