Celebrate! Celebrate!  August 26, 2020, is the 100-year anniversary of women’s right to vote!  The long, arduous struggle for that right placed women at odds with men, other women, the liquor industry, manufacturers, religious beliefs, and societal norms.  We owe a debt of gratitude to the named and unnamed women who fought so hard and so long. 

Arkansas’s Journey for the Vote

Arkansas’s first attempt to give women the vote was in 1868 at the state constitutional convention convened after the Civil War. It proposed to give the vote to all citizens who were 21 and who could read and write.  It did not pass. 

Support for women’s suffrage grew over time in Arkansas and across the nation.  Suffrage organizations formed, split, reunited, and adopted varying strategies for securing the vote.  Among the Arkansas groups were the Arkansas Woman Suffrage Association (1881), the Arkansas Equal Suffrage Association (1888), the Little Rock Chapter of the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs (1897), the Political Equality League (1911) and the Arkansas Federation of Women’s Clubs (1915).  Many local women’s clubs not affiliated with national or state groups supported the right to vote.  Suffragists engaged in public speaking, writing, petition drives, lobbying legislators, and organizing parades.  Others resorted to more radical acts. They picketed, held demonstrations, and went on hunger strikes.   

In 1917, Arkansas passed a suffrage bill allowing women to vote in primary elections. By the end of 1918, fifteen states had granted women full voting rights.  Congress passed the 19th Amendment in 1919.  The state ratification process began in June 1919.  Arkansas became the twelfth state to ratify the 19th Amendment on July 28, 1919.  The Amendment became law on August 26, 1920.

The Right to Vote is the Right to Run for Office

With the right to vote, women can participate in the election of those who govern and run for office.  These are a democracy’s fundamental elements.

According to the last state census, women in Arkansas make up 51.2% of the population, but only 23.7% of the state’s legislators are women.  Clearly, women are underrepresented in the state capitol.  

Further, every U.S. representative and senator representing Arkansas is a man. Unless we can elect candidates, who are committed to these causes, women’s rights will not be championed.  

Arkansas’s Journey Continues

The struggle for women’s rights remains an ongoing quest.  In addition to voting and running for office, we also must fight against voter suppression and work to ensure that every eligible voter can cast their vote. 

Celebrate! Celebrate!

Celebrate the women who worked to give you the right to vote, to run for office, to be president. Honor them with your hard-earned vote! Celebrate them with your support and your vote for today’s Progressive Arkansas Women candidates who are committed to reproductive, economic, and environmental justice for all!

E.J. Carpenter is a retired lawyer and Progressive Arkansas Women PAC supporter.

Marcia Barners is a retired lawyer, current activist, former teacher, Progressive Arkansas Women PAC supporter, and 21st-century suffragist.