The Atlantic, July 2, 2019: How women remade American government
On February 13, 1920, Carrie Chapman Catt stood triumphant before the opening session of the National Woman Suffrage Association convention and declared the organization’s decades-long mission finally accomplished.
“Women be glad today. Let your voices ring out the gladness in your hearts,” the 61-year-old suffragist said. Thirty-one states had so far ratified the Nineteenth Amendment, which gave women the right to vote, and the remainder necessary for ratification would soon follow suit. “March on, suffragists,” Catt told the crowd, “the victory is yours.”
But while the activists had achieved a monumental victory for American women, the amendment’s passage was only the first mile marker on a long road to the attainment of political power. It took women 60 years for their voting rates to match those of men, and by then they still had little political influence: The few women with seats in Congress had not served long enough to attain leadership positions, and while some were individually effective, there weren’t enough of them to leverage their numbers to enact policy.