In this centennial year of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote, we women continue our struggle for equality.

African-American women had to continue their struggle for the vote until the passage in 1965 of the Voting Rights Act. Pay equity remains unachieved and is a focus of the American Association of University Women of Maine.

We celebrated the passage of legislation, the Paycheck Fairness Act, in the House of Representatives this year. We celebrated the legislation in Maine to stop using prior salary history to determine wages, understanding that perpetuating a history of unequal pay disadvantages women, not only with current income, but also with retirement security later in life. Yet pay inequity persists – and still we march.

What role has women’s suffrage played in this struggle? How could women carry this out without being able to vote?

In 1914, Mary Woolley, president of Mount Holyoke College and a member of what was then called the Association of Collegiate Alumnae or ACA, wrote about this in an article titled “Civic Responsibility of the College Woman.”

“It is impossible to consider the question of civic responsibility,” Woolley wrote, “without reference to the question of woman suffrage.” (Woolley would later become AAUW president, in 1927.)

The quote is from Suzanne Gould’s 2013 article, “AAUW’s Long Road To Women’s Suffrage,” posted at AAUW’s website. The original focus was women’s education. In 1915, after studying the issue of suffrage, the organization passed the suffrage resolution: “Recognizing that, under our government, education in both its academic and social aspects is controlled by the electors, be it resolved that we, as a body of college women dedicated to the promotion of education and desirous of furthering our ability for usefulness, favor suffrage for women.”

Additionally, the article reads, “.. many individual ACA members who were suffragists: women like Anna Kelton Wiley, a member of the Washington, D.C., branch who was jailed at Occoquan Workhouse for picketing the White House, and Maud Wood Park, who organized the College Equal Suffrage League to gather support from what critics called an apathetic younger generation. Along with our organization’s founders, leaders, and members, they are just a few of the brave women we honor … .” The link between suffrage and women’s equality was clear.

AAUW members lobby our representatives on matters of equality for women; provide salary negotiation strategies; fund education through scholarships; contribute to legal actions to demand fair treatment for women; and fund research, such as “The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap” in 2018, and “Women’s Student Debt Crisis in the United States” in 2017, and “Barriers and Bias: The Status of Women in Leadership” in 2016, and “Solving the Equation: The Variables for Women’s Success in Engineering and Computing” in 2015, among other publications.

Discrimination persists – and still we march.

AAUW won the battle for fairness for women in higher education, but we could not stop there. We and our daughters, mothers, sisters, relatives and friends demanded more. Additionally, we must defend against the rollback of earned rights. We continue to honor the legacy of the suffragettes by advancing their work. We stand on their shoulders. They are our role models. We salute them!

… and still we march with our feet, with our voices and with our pens and keyboards.

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