Image from the Harris County Democratic Party. The candidates are in a courtroom at Texas Southern University’s Thurgood Marshall School of Law.
When Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the 19th Amendment in 1920, it officially became illegal for any government—federal or state—to deny voting rights on the basis of gender.
Or more accurately, it became illegal on paper. The reality is that despite the amendment’s passage into law, minority women across the U.S. were quite effectively denied access to the ballot box for decades following.
One significant barrier during this era, in Texas and other southern states, was the practice of holding segregated whites-only primary elections, which gave election officials a discriminatory but legal excuse to turn away non-white voters at the polls.
Other race-based voter suppression tactics included poll taxes, “literacy” tests, and Klan-backed voter intimidation that sometimes resulted in violence, and that was often carried out in tacit cooperation with law enforcement officials and community leaders.
It would take many decades’ worth of lawsuits, along with orchestrated, collective pressure on public officials, to bring about the massive shifts in public thinking and policy required to make true suffrage for all women a viable reality.
From disenfranchised voters to successful candidates…
As the U.S. geared up for mid-term primary elections in early 2018, a record-breaking 570-plus women representing both parties declared themselves as candidates for the U.S. House, U.S. Senate, or governor.
Of these, 277 became nominees or post-primary candidates. When the 119th U.S. Congress was seated in January 2019, 127 of the members were women, a historic record. Additionally, nine women were elected governor of a U.S. state, including four who are first-time woman governors of their states.
One of the most inspirational illustrations of this historic surge in women’s candidacy is found in the equally-history making mid-term election of 17 African-American judges in Texas’s Harris County, the third-largest county in the U.S. Watch a video.
Running a coordinated campaign the candidates dubbed “Black Girl Magic” (borrowing from a popular social media trend), the noteworthy election of the women judges drew nationwide media attention in what came to be described as “The Year Of the Woman” a reference to the record-breaking numbers of women political candidates that ran during the mid-term election cycle.
In an article from NPR, Judge Cassandra Holleman said “I’ve even had parents that tell me that their daughters took the picture that we had [above] and framed it, and it’s actually on their wall in their bedroom.”
“17 Black Women Sweep to Judgeships in Texas County”—the New York Times