Women’s suffrage deserves to be celebrated

Women's Equality Day Repast Celebration |Courtesy of Monica Kressman

Houston women celebrate the 19th amendment and women’s right to vote. | Photo courtesy of Monica Kressman/The League of Women’s Voters Houston

For some Aug. 26 was just another Wednesday, but on this day 95 years ago women everywhere cheered as the 19th Amendment granting American women’s right to vote finally became law. Suffragists like Florence Sterling, president of the League of Women Voters of the Houston Area at the time, ran to the streets to celebrate.

Perhaps some have begun to assume that the battle for women’s equality in politics is over. It is true that women have slowly gained ground in the political arena, however only 19.4 percent of women are in Congress, with 20 women in the Senate and 84 in the House.

Even at the state level, women make up only 25 percent of the states’ leadership on average whether it be in the state senate, house, or in executive leadership positions. This is almost a century after women received the right to vote.

Internationally, the United States ranked 84th in worldwide female leadership in 2014.

Because of this, the League continues to remember the achievements of women who have dared to take center stage in male-dominated politics

Univision and the University of Houston – Downtown rose to sponsor and support the League of Women Voters’ most recent honorees, Frances “Sissy” Farenthold and Carole Keeton at its 14th Annual Repast Luncheon.

Farenthold was one of three women who graduated the University of Texas School of Law in 1949. She also ran for the Democratic nomination for vice president of the United States in 1972 and taught law at the University of Houston.

Keeton was the first and only woman elected as Mayor of Austin. She was the first woman elected as Railroad Commissioner, first woman to serve as Texas Comptroller, the first woman President of the Austin School Board and the list goes on.

Both women have faced an environment similar to ours today in which men dominate politics and local government. But they never let this stop them.

Keeton recalled a time when a man would tell her that he liked women who were loveable, cuddly, kissable and who smelled good. She immediately retorted, “I like my men to be loveable, cuddly and kissable who smell good. I hope you haven’t been as disappointed as I have.”

Farenthold faced similar obstacles because of her gender. She was once informed while running for mayor that a group of male politicians gathered and stated that she was “dangerously close” to winning the election.

And while many more women today receive higher education, and are better represented in government, Sissy noted that “traditions of timidity are difficult to get over.”

“If you don’t have someone mad at you, you’re probably not doing anything,” Keeton said.

A part of the problem is that we are simply not voting.

Texas has one of the worst voter turnouts in the country. Farenthold put it best when she said that while some claim they do not vote because they are sick of politics, they’re still in our political process. They are just giving their vote away.

“Today’s luncheon serves as a reminder that anything one puts their mind too – they can achieve,” said Mary Garcia, a political science post-graduate student who attended the event.

As the next generation of leaders rise, we should never forget that we can still make a difference and that the battle for equality is far from over.

Assistant opinion editor Sarah Kim is a political science senior and member of the League of Women’s Voters Houston and may be reached at [email protected].

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