LAWRENCE – The 19th Amendment was just the beginning of women’s struggle to gain equality, and African American women didn’t even gain the right to vote until the 1960s. The 100 years post-ratification is the topic next week of a suffrage lecture, “It Didn’t End with the Vote.”
Lisa McLendon, news & information track chair in the William Allen White School of Journalism & Mass Communications and coordinator of the school’s Bremner Editing Center at the University of Kansas, will give the lecture at 12:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 4, in Watson 3 West as part of the Centennial Celebration of the 19th Amendment series of events.
"This is the 100th anniversary of suffrage,” McLendon said, “and I think they may think that, 'Oh well, women have been voting for 100 years, therefore there have been equal rights for 100 years,' and there really haven’t been equal rights for 100 years."
Specifically, African Americans were shut out of going to the polls for four more decades.
"It wasn't until 1964 with the Civil Rights Act and 1965 with the Voting Rights Act that really things like poll taxes and literacy tests were finally abolished, that were put in place basically to keep all African Americans from voting,” McLendon said. “So even though African American women theoretically had the right to vote, in practice there were other barriers keeping them from the vote for 45 more years."
Barriers to equality were addressed with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prevented discrimination based on sex, race, color, national origin and religion, and Title IX, which provided for equal access to education.
But many women are still alive today who can recall when they couldn’t even get a credit card on their own, McLendon said.
"It was perfectly legal to deny an unmarried woman a credit card. It was perfectly legal to issue a woman a credit card only in her husband's name until 1974," she said.
Other measures of equality have been realized only within the last several years.
"It's been only until just this decade that women have fully been allowed into every position in the military, including combat," McLendon said.
The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which abolished the 180-day statute of limitations for filing an equal-pay lawsuit, was passed just 10 years ago.
“Post-suffrage, women still had to fight for the right to do things that affected them very, very personally when it came to their health, when it came to their careers, when it came to their finances, when it came to their education,” McLendon said, “and that's a battle that's still going on."