Emma Smith DeVoe was eight years old when she attended a speech by famed suffragist, Susan B. Anthony.
When the crowd was asked to stand if they wanted women to vote, a fired up DeVoe was the first to rise to her feet.
She never stopped standing up.
DeVoe, after moving to Washington state, revitalized and spearheaded our state’s successful push for women’s suffrage.
There is a famous political cartoon from the early 1900s called “The Awakening.” It depicted an ethereal woman with a torch, labeled “Votes for Women” marching east through the states where women could vote towards the women reaching out for her.
Washington state has a legacy of strong women who achieved the remarkable. Our history is deeply rooted in this push for equality. We were one of the first five states to legalize women voting – a full ten years before the 19th Amendment came to be 96 years ago today.
Today, Women’s Equality Day, I think back to those early suffragists and the tough western women. They were smart and independent and, when driven by purpose and principle, gave voice to an entire population of Americans.
A truly representative government relies on the voices of all its citizens, no matter their background or walk of life. And that’s why today we celebrate granting women the fundamental right to vote nearly a century ago.
The courageous individuals who fought for this right sparked a movement, and inspired generations of stronger, more empowered women.
Women are graduating from college at a higher percentage than men, starting two out of every three small businesses, making up roughly half of our workforce, and running for president. Women offer a unique perspective in all areas of business and public policy, and have made significant strides in the past 96 years.
But there is still much more to be done to empower women to embrace every opportunity available to them, and to advocate for women around the world who still yearn for access to the ballot box.
It’s up to each generation to continue the work of those before them and to ensure that the legacy of the suffragists live on.