State lawmakers consider Women’s Suffrage Day

State lawmakers consider Women’s Suffrage Day

Brooklyn Hillemann

WNPA News Service

Women fought a decades-long battle for the right to vote, and now lawmakers want to commemorate the crusade by designating March 22 as Women’s Suffrage Day.

The 19th Amendment, banning voter discrimination based on gender, was passed more than a century ago, with Washington becoming the 35th of 36 states to ratify it on March 22, 1920.

The House Committee on State Government and Tribal Relations received memos and public comment on the proposed bill during a remote hearing Jan. 10.

Janie White, representing the Washington Education Association, expressed support for the bill.

“I am vice-president of a union made up of 70% women,” she said. “We know that women’s right to vote is essential.”

White also suggested that representatives consider changing the date of the holiday, calling for inclusivity in the celebration.

“Many black women remained disenfranchised because the Nineteenth Amendment did not eliminate state laws that prevented black Americans from going to the polls,” she said.

Speaking about the exclusion of people of color during the electoral movement, White urged the committee to consider a day recognizing “the importance of the movement for suffrage for all women.” She did not suggest a specific date.

Women’s Equality Day is observed nationally on August 26 to commemorate the nationwide passage of the 19th Amendment. The observance, however, is not considered a federal holiday, which means government offices, schools and banks remain open.

Michael Moran, lobbyist and civic educator for Lake Washington High School, offered his support for the bill and pushed for a more comprehensive agenda, including the suffragette movement and the role played by women of color.

“What needs to be taught, especially today, is the value of the right to vote,” he said.

The potential inclusion of the school holiday may depend on another proposed bill for the 2022 session, HB 1617. The bill clarifies that all holidays are also considered school vacations.

Representative Debra Lekanoff, D-Anacortes, ended the public hearing with a quote from American abolitionist Sojourner Truth, commenting on the strength of women.

“It’s a celebration of women rising up,” she said, “and all the hard work Washington State and the nation has done for everyone and every American.”

HB1485, sponsored by Rep. Michelle Caldier, R-Port Orchard, is scheduled to appear for the Jan. 13 executive session.

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