COLUMBUS — Aug. 26 will mark the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which guaranteed women the right to vote.
And earlier this month, a key player in the voting-rights movement also marked a milestone. On Feb. 14, 1920, the advocates and organizations behind the women's suffrage movement created the League of Women Voters.
Just a few months later, the League of Women Voters of Ohio was formed, and its current executive director, Jen Miller, said the centennial presents an opportunity to highlight the league's history and the obstacles overcome to ensure all women have a voice at the polls.
"Even though the 19th Amendment passed in 1920, Native American women didn't get the right to vote until 1924," Miller said. "Many African Americans did not really have the right to vote until the Voting Rights Act in 1965. Military voters overseas did not have the right until the 1980s."
The League of Women Voters’ initial goal was to educate women about their new right to vote, and Miller said since then, the organization has continued to defend democracy as it educates and empowers voters of all genders and political affiliations.
Miller said from the start, the league has focused on reforms such as ending gerrymandering and creating fairer ballots. However, she noted, other initiatives to improve democracy and equality were just as important.
"When women got the right to vote at that time, they could not divorce, there were child marriages, forced marriages, child labor, no funding from the state on educating our youth. Clean water was a major issue for communities," she said.
Along with events commemorating the 100th anniversary of the League of Women Voters and the 19th Amendment, Miller said events this year also will focus on the 2020 elections.
"We're recruiting poll workers, we're registering voters, we're working on election security," she said. "Any way that we can ensure that our election is robust and secure and accurate is our work."
Miller said she believes it's critical to recognize how sacred and important the right to vote is and encourages citizens to cast an informed ballot every election. The league's Vote 411 guide has information about the candidates on the ballot, important election dates and polling-place information.
— This story was produced in association with Media in the Public Interest and funded in part by the George Gund Foundation.