By the designated 2015 benchmark, Zimbabwean women need to establish themselves as a collective voice and show an ability to not only hold positions both in the public and private sectors, but to do so as efficient and effective leaders. They must learn from the past, not be satisfied with the status quo of the present, and strategize for the future. Something that every woman worldwide must accomplish during their lifetime.
U.S. History of Women’s Suffrage: A Brief Overview and Critique
The first recorded history of this movement began in 1776 when Abigail Adams sent a note to her husband, John Adams, while he was attending the Continental Congress in Philadelphia, asking that he and the other men (who were working on the Declaration of Independence) “Remember the Ladies.” John responded with what was deemed as humor that the Declaration’s wording specifies that “all men are created equal” and that the men would “fight the despotism of the petticoat”.
Yes, some would argue as I have, (which irritated my Women’s Studies professor in undergrad) that the movement did not extend its reach far and wide to be receptive and inclusive of the rights of all women, to unite with women of color, especially Black women. It has been said that it was more by default than a focused and purposed desire or strategy that women of color were included in the 19th Amendment. This point will be explored because without unification, without alliances, the mountain of victory can take longer to climb- and can be impossible to reach the zenith.
The Rocky Waters of Suffrage: Black and White
Let us not forget in 1851, twelve years before the Emancipation Proclamation was signed and 14 years before the Juneteenth celebration, when Sojourner Truth delivered her “Ain’t I a Woman?” speech before a spellbound audience at a women’s rights convention in Akron, Ohio; her point being that Black women should also be included and allowed to participate as equals in the movement for women’s rights…all women.
Truth saw and exposed the truth, and that was that Black women were being broadly overlooked within the movement. A possible answer to that call (although short-lived) could be when in 1866 Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony formed the American Equal Rights Association (AERA), an organization for white and black women, and men dedicated to the goal of universal suffrage.
What is odd though, when Anthony and Stanton formed the more radical National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA), Black men and women were excluded from the suffrage mission and vision. Tensions got so high that it caused a rift between the organization’s founders and Frederick Douglass in 1870 and they parted ways. Here was clear evidence of Sojourner Truth’s speech ‘falling on deaf ears’.
The National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) an 1890 merger of NWSA and the American Women Suffrage Association (AWSA) was made up of white women (and ironically the same women who were fighting years earlier).
Even six years later when The National Association of Colored Women was formed, bringing together more than 100 black women’s clubs, there was no true, March in distinguishable alignment between white and black women. Black women learned that they would have to fight to get their voices heard loudly but respectfully over the crowd. Even though the founders of the Black sorority, Delta Sigma Theta (who later incorporated as an organization in 1930) first participated in the Women’s Suffrage
Washington D.C., March 1913, many Black women’s organizations felt slighted by the march as they did not seem to be included (check out the suffrage march line).
It’s been 90 years since women in the U.S. earned the right to vote, 145 years since the entire U.S. and abroad received word that all Black slaves were “free”; 148 years since the Emancipation Proclamation was signed, 234 years since the U.S. Constitution was drafted, and over 500 years since the first enslaved African was admittedly brought to what we now call the United States (research the Transatlantic slave trade that began in the 1450s, and the 1526 slave revolt against the Spaniards in the Carolinas).
But for the women of Zimbabwe it has been 1010 years since the Shona people built a city called Zimbabwe; a mere 53 years since women earned the right to vote, thirty-two years since they earned the right to stand for election- and it has only been eight days since Zimbabwe has started accepting submissions towards re-drafting their constitution to include women- as influenced by women.
These women have been yearning for a voice, position, and an opportunity in a country that only 30 years ago was recognized by Great Britain as a distinct and independent country. Without a grassroots effort to share the news about the submission process, and explain what information can be submitted, this major constitutional milestone will be moot and the red inking (as pictured on a female voter’s finger above) will feel almost useless.
Copyright 2010. Natasha L. Foreman. All Rights Reserved.
Delta Sigma Theta Incorporated Founders. Delta Sigma Theta website.