Votes for women: 100 years later

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Des Moines, Iowa (WHO) – More women are voting.  Women voters outnumbered men by around 10 million in the 2016 Presidential Election.  We are also seeing more women running for political office. 

“It’s possible that out of five seats in the U.S House and Senate for federal office, that Iowa could elect four women,” said Karen Kedrowski, Director of the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics.

Women are making history even before those races are called.  This election marks 100 years since women across the country won the right to vote.

“I think she would be very proud that there are so many women running for office now,” said Cynde Fanter.

Her great grandmother never lived to see the day women could vote, let alone hold office. Mary Jane Coggeshall spent her life fighting for that monumental moment.

“She was called the Mother of Women’s Suffrage in Iowa because she was one of the early leaders who kind of shouldered the movement in Iowa,” explained Fanter.

For more than four decades, Coggeshall marched up the steps of the Iowa Capitol, lobbying for votes for women.  A new historical marker on the capitol grounds recognizes her steadfast role in carrying on the cause and inspiring others to see it through. 

“She was my great, great-aunt and she was great,” said Tim Lane.

He described Carrie Chapman Catt as a force to be reckoned with on the national suffrage stage.

“Through the years, my appreciation for what she had to do achieve that has just grown.  I mean, it wasn’t an uphill battle.  It was up cliff,” he said.

Lane says those setbacks never kept her down.  His Aunt possessed an indomitable spirt.

“She would time and time again tell folks, if we learn something from this defeat.  There is no loss.  There is no defeat.  Only delayed victory.  That attitude, that carried her through decades,” he said.

Now all these decades later, the 19th Amendment gave women a seat at the table, but there’s still room for more.

“There’s a record number of women seated in the U.S. Congress today. It’s about 24% and that is a historic high.  But if we think about women being 52% of the population, we’re only half way to what we may think is parody,” explained Kedrowski.

The Carrie Chapman Catt Center honors its namesake by educating and engaging women in politics.  Kedrowski says what were once considered “women’s issues” shape our daily lives. Take the workplace we know today.

“The 8 hour work day, lunch hour and mandatory break time, overtime, you know safety protocols. were actually first put in place for women working in industrial settings,” she said.

Kedrowksi says there is still unfinished business when it comes to the Equal Rights Amendment which would add protections for women’s rights to the constitution. 

The right to vote was hard won.  It took 72 long, grueling years. Yet a century later, the work of the early suffragists is not done.

“You can do nothing more than vote.  That would be the ultimate tribute to them,” said Fanter.

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