This suffragette is everything


It was on this day in 1919 that the all-male Congress of the United States of America finally got around to passing the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote.

This was the culmination of decades of campaigning by suffragettes, badass women who bent the long arc of history towards justice. Seriously: the first US territory to give women the right to vote (Wyoming) did so in 1869. So it took fifty years from the first victory to the national Constitutional amendment. As the Library of Congress puts it, “Few early supporters lived to see final victory.”

It’s easy, looking back at history, to compress the time between when people began to fight for justice and when it was achieved. It’s also easy to forget just how hard women had to fight just to ensure this very basic form of equal rights. The battle did not last 10 days or 100 days or even 1000 days. And yet these women (and their male allies) just kept fighting until they won.

You can find many inspiring photos of the marches they held in the streets of the capitol and of their demonstrations and organizing groups. But this photo, preserved by the Library of Congress, shows the spirit and toughness that typified the struggle. Meet Miss Sarah Anderson, a Suffragist from  Washington, DC. We see her at the Chevy Chase club in 1920. She’s not messing around with your chauvinism, and one imagines she’s savoring the 19th-amendment victory with a smoke.

But even that cigarette was part of her activism.

She advocated for women’s equal right to smoke in public, too. “Local suffragettes are taking up in earnest the fight to obtain equal smoking rights for men and women in public places,” the caption to the photo reads. “Even the famous Capitol dining room has not escaped the fumes of the ladies cigarettes.”

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