by Carole Jurenko Jones, Alpha Delta (U of Alabama), 2019-2021 NPC Chairman
Aug. 26, 2020, marked 100 years since the declaration of the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution granting American women the right to vote – a right known as women’s suffrage. The women’s suffrage movement began in 1848, and for the next 72 years, women fought diligently to secure the right to vote. It is these women – including Panhellenic sorority women Carrie Chapman Catt, Alice Duer Miller, the Rev. Dr. Anna Howard Shaw, among others – who rallied for “Votes for Women” and we have them to thank for expanding women’s rights and creating opportunities for future generations.
At the heart of democracy is the right to vote, and generally speaking, most of us take our voting rights seriously and cast our ballot on election day. It’s part of our duty as community citizens and every vote really does count. If you aren’t registered to vote, this is a reminder that the National Panhellenic Conference (NPC) supports and encourages not only our members but all women to pursue economic, social and political equity, along with leadership and civic engagement.
One of NPC’s six advocacy building blocks is citizenship/service showing that Panhellenic women are committed to participating as active citizens to improve both campus and local/state/federal communities. Our goal is to instill the understanding and value that good citizenship is important for caring for others, respecting the law and improving community, and that volunteering teaches women of all ages compassion and understanding. Both citizenship and service ultimately advocate for the causes which we are each personally passionate about. By participating in the democratic process, we are helping to shape the world in which we want to live.
Record turnout at the polls is expected this year in the U.S., and the generational shift of eligible voters continues. According to a study by Pew Research, the youngest Americans – millennials (born 1977-1995) and Generation Z (born 1996-TBD) – will be poised to exercise their political muscle in November, making up 37% of the electorate. Generation X (born 1965-1976) makes up 25% of the electorate. Also, Gen Z is set to surpass the Silent Generation (born 1945 and before) in the size of the electorate for the first time and Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964) remain the generation with the largest share of the voting-eligible population. Interestingly, millennials will make up a smaller share of the electorate than they did in the last presidential election, even as their population numbers have grown due to immigration.
Women continue to have the power to make a difference through their votes in 2020. The collective power of women’s voices and votes can and will affect outcomes in our communities and at the national level. I encourage you to become an educated voter, exercise your power and encourage other women to register to vote if they have not done so. Let’s do our part and honor those women who came before us who fought for the rights and privileges of which we enjoy today.