Women’s March on Washington, Jan. 21, 2017
In August 1920, 24-year-old Tennessee Republican legislator Harry Burn changed his mind and supported women’s suffrage because his mother told him to. That single vote resulted in ratification of the 19th Amendment and the enfranchisement of 24 million American women—but not all of them.
Nearly a century later, we can ask whether having the vote has made a significant difference in American politics. While improving, the current statistics of women in office are still pretty low: 20% of Congress, 17% of big city mayors, and only 4% of governors. The largest number of women serve closer to home at lower elective levels in state legislatures, on school boards, and in municipal roles. Do women voters, candidates, and office-holders make a difference for women or the wider community? How much did advances in women’s rights, civil rights, or other causes depend on women with political power?
Historian Elisabeth Griffith, a biographer of suffrage pioneer Elizabeth Cady Stanton, considers these questions as she review women’s political engagement from marching for the vote to campaigning for (or against) a woman for president.