Jessie: Feeling grateful and thinking about the women who came before me.
Tomorrow marks a momentous event. 100 years ago tomorrow Tennessee ratified the 19th amendment which enfranchised approximately 26 million American women. The amendment was certified on August 26, 1920 making it possible for many women to vote in the 1920 US presidential election.
As triumphant as the amendment was, it must be said that African-American women, Native American women, Chinese-American women and Latina women faced incredible barriers to exercising the right to vote. Threats and outright violence routinely obstructed African-American women throughout the United States but particularly below the Mason-Dixon line. Language barriers, poll taxes and literacy tests blocked Latina women, particular in Puerto Rico, from voting. In fact they did not receive the right to do so until 1929. Even more shockingly Native Americans were not granted citizenship United States until 1924 by an act of Congress. Even then, some states continue to bar Native American people from voting until 1957. Historically, discriminatory and complicated immigration policies created a variety of barriers to Chinese-American women.
In the UK, The Representation of the People Act 1918 enfranchised all women over the age of 30 who met certain property requirements. However, it wasn’t until 1928 all people over the age of 21 were permitted to vote regardless of property ownership. I think of these sorts of privileges and restrictions often as I write the Beryl and Edwina novels. As I imagine my sleuths’ stories I try to remain mindful that both of them are women of privilege. Edwina is the proud owner of her family home, the Beeches and in her forties. And Beryl may only have become eligible to vote well into her adulthood but as a white woman, is freely allowed to do so.
Sometimes it’s very difficult put myself in the mindset of someone who was so recently allowed to vote simply because of her gender. Other days it feels all too easy. I write my books in a house that was built 45 years before I would have been allowed to vote. An oil lamp sits behind me as I do so that belonged to my grandmother who was ten years old in 1920. Her own mother died before the 19th Amendment was ratified. As I sit at my desk creating novels using modern technology, it often seems that 100 years is not nearly enough time to shift the story as to who is valued, who receives justice and who has a voice that is heard.
It is my heartfelt hope that each of the readers of the Wickeds blog will find a way to make her or his own voice heard over the next few months by casting votes in any way available to them, supporting whomever they choose. The next hundred years depends on all of us.
Readers, what do you hope life will include 100 years from now?