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2019-2020 marks the 100th anniversary since the passage and ratification of the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution which articulated that, “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.” The 19th amendment was the result of centuries of activism and contributions from many social movements to ensure through the highest law of the land a “right through which all other rights could be secured.” But as suffragist leader Frances Harper observed in 1893, "I do not think the mere extension of the ballot a panacea for all the ills of our national life. What we need to-day is not simply more voters, but better voters." Indeed, despite the passage of the 19th amendment, women of color did not gain their right to vote until 1964, and some suffragist participation also went hand-in-hand with problematic racism.

Although there have been many advancements since the passage of the 19th amendment, there is much to be done to improve the status of women, including among other things: ending sex-based discrimination, improving maternal mortality rates for black women, ensuring equal pay for equal work, increasing protections for the LGBTQ+ community, and addressing challenges faced by veterans and those who live in poverty.

Throughout the 2019-2020 academic year, students, faculty and staff will be holding events to celebrate Women Breaking Barriers. The year will culminate with a teach-in on April 3. For more information, contact Dr. Carah Ong Whaley at whaleycl@jmu.edu.

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