Keeping abreast of historical anniversaries can be an intriguing hobby, particularly when seemingly unrelated events from different times and locations come together in some sort of a pattern. It's also interesting to see how major events of a past time, often occurring with great sacrifice by the people of that time are now either nearly forgotten or at the very least, taken for granted, even while we reap the benefits today. The date of June 4 is of particular interest this week, with one anniversary specific to American women; the other for those of another nation, but related to the first.
Less than a month ago, school districts held budget votes. Earlier in the year, New York Republicans held their presidential primary elections. Both days had low voter turnout. It's certainly no landslide victory for a budget to pass by only 160 votes with just over 1,000 votes cast, nor does it speak loudly about candidates with low percentages of people choosing to vote. There could be a variety of reasons for these low numbers such as apathy, the feeling that single votes don't make an impact, so-in-so will win anyway, ignorance of the issues or that an election is being held, etc. However, whatever reason is given, the result is the majority of citizens have not let their voices be heard or counted.
Amazingly, this right to vote, for women anyway, is not even 100 years old. June 4 marks the anniversary when the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was passed by Congress in 1919, granting women the right to vote. A right that took centuries to come to fruition, and even many decades after the 15th Amendment was passed in 1870 which granted male African Americans the right to vote, it is seemingly discarded and taken lightly with such low voter turnout. It is a trend that has become the norm in most elections.
June 4 marks the anniversary of Congress passing the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote in 1920. It was ratified several weeks later in August of the same year.
Many strong women fought for the right to vote, particularly in the mid- to late 1800s. Women such as Susan B. Anthony, Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Lucy Stone are well-known for collectively working for suffrage rights of women, but also for the abolitionist and temperance causes. Of course, it was in Seneca Falls, N.Y., in 1848 that the famous convention was held regarding the rights of women such as property and custody of children, but additionally included the right to vote. A statement was written listing women's grievances which became known as the Declaration of Sentiments.
The idea of suffrage for women was not fully embraced at the convention, but was included as part of the resolution thanks to the persuasive powers of Stanton and Frederick Douglass. The movement did receive its share of ridicule, but those behind it knew that with the right to vote, women would gain political clout to help win other rights. The resolution simply asked for women to enjoy all the rights and privileges that belonged to them as citizens of the United States. Sadly, these pioneer women died before seeing the 19th Amendment became law.
On June 4, in addition to thinking about the 19th Amendment and the hard fought battle for equal voting rights for all citizens, one might also contemplate what citizens faced in another nation across the world nearly 70 years later in another fight for greater freedom and a voice toward a more democratic government. June 4, 1989, marks the anniversary date of the Tiananmen Square Massacre. The international world was shocked to learn of hundreds to thousands of deaths of Chinese citizens who had gathered in and around the cities protesting for government reform. Regrettably, the response to that was martial law, death, even crushed by tanks, and the imprisonment of organizers and sympathizers. There are certainly ongoing reports today of how citizens there and in other similar regimes mysteriously disappear never to be seen again; simply fighting for basic human rights.
The study of history, even just a quick glance at anniversary dates, is not just interesting, but also a good reminder of how we came to be as a society and culture. At times, it is also a good lesson to not repeat past mistakes and at other times, to appreciate what we have. In such cases, we can honor these past sacrifices by not taking anything for granted. On June 4th we can remember the 15th Amendment and Tiananmen Square and recommit to exercising our rights. There's also the Battle of Midway in 1942 and evacuation of Allied Forces from Dunkirk in 1940 as other historical events to remember.
Make it a good week and enjoy the great month of June.
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