It took a history class and some independent research to figure out that books don’t always tell us the whole truth, but only that portion of it which fits the current politics.
In History class, I was studying the USA during the roaring 20s when we arrived at the topic of women’s voting rights. The information provided in the textbook was interesting but not vast. Here is what the text contained:
- The 19th Amendment was passed in 1920 which gave women the right to vote
- However, only half of the states gave women full suffrage
- Some states, such as New York, gave partial suffrage
- Other states, like Texas, gave women no suffrage prohibiting them from voting at all
This was all of the information provided on women gaining the right to vote in America. This was all that was said in an IGCSE textbook. I was intrigued by the topic and wanted to know more and so I decided to research more into the subject. I was shocked by what I found, for one vital detail was missing from my textbook. These rights for votes were given to white women and not women of colour.
The use of the word ‘women’ was horribly generalised as many women did not have access to voting rights during the 20s, and this had nothing to do with which state they were in, but rather with the colour of their skin or their ancestry. Yet this was what the education system wanted us to learn even though the information was faulty. So I decided to bestow my knowledge in this article and mention the dates of when women of colour were able to vote.
Native American Women:
- On June 2nd 1924, the Indian Citizenship Act was passed
- This act gave Native Americans the right to be citizens and it was supposed to give them voting rights too
- However, many states still passed different laws and policies in order to stop Native Americans from voting
- By 1957, however, all Native Americans had the right to vote in every state
- The fight for black people to get the right to vote and equality in other civil acts is not unknown or a secret
- On July 9th 1965, the voting rights bill was finally passed in the US House of Representatives with a vote of 333-85
- A direct catalyst came following the attack on March 7th 1965. Protesters, led by Martin Luther King Jr., were having a peaceful march from Selma in Alabama to Montgomery (which is the state capital). They were attacked by officers with nightsticks, tear gas and whips.
- This was then caught on camera and televised over the United States which finally gave President Johnson the push to pass this bill.
- In 1922, the Supreme Court ruled that people of Japanese heritage were not eligible to be citizens thereby stopping them from having the right to vote
- Then in 1925, the Congress barred any Filipinos from gaining US citizenship if they had not served in the Navy for three years
- Finally in 1952, the McCarren-Walter Act was passed which gave all people of Asian ancestry the right to become citizens and be able to vote
When I began writing this article, I meant for it to show the struggle that women of colour face compared to white women in the fight for equality — using the voting rights in the USA over the years as a backdrop. However, I then noticed something very significant. All of these acts, policies and laws did not just give women of colour voting rights, but men too.
The struggle for equality with women of colour goes together with the struggle for equality between races. These women were not only fighting for equal rights as men, but to be recognised as equals amongst fellow human beings, regardless of their skin tone.