In Celebration of Demanding Women
Images & Post by Tiffany Harkleroad
When you hear the phrase “demanding women,” does it conjure up images of the bossy housewife with a honey-do list a mile long? Perhaps the nagging mother wondering when you will give her a grandchild? Or, the cut-throat female executive who will stop at nothing to get ahead?
For me, the phrase “demanding women” has nothing to do with those stereotypes, and it has everything to do with the countless women who have changed our world for the better.
This year marks the centennial anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, granting women the right to vote. It is thanks to demanding women that, after more than 80 years of fighting, women were granted the right to vote. These women demanded that their voices be heard, that their needs and interests be represented, and that equality be sought.
But, the fight for voting equality did not even end with the passage of the 19th Amendment, for that really only granted voting rights to white women: black women, Native American women, and other women of color continued to be excluded from the voting process for many years after 1920.
In many ways, the voting rights of women, particularly women from marginalized groups, still encounter countless barriers. And at every barrier, both past and present, you can count on demanding women leading the push for change and equality.
As with anything, voting rights, particularly women’s voting rights, did not, and still do not, exist in a vacuum. Suffrage has been entwined with the abolitionist movement, immigration policies stifling rights of immigrant women, and the ongoing fight for civil rights. Even today, voting rights are at issue when U.S. citizens, such as residents of Washington D.C. or US territories like Puerto Rico, have no federal voting rights.
Despite the continued struggle for equality, we can, and should, celebrate that it has been 100 years since the 19th Amendment was passed. And, while 100 years sounds like a long time, in the context of civil rights, it really is not.
To give it a little context, last year was the 125th anniversary of the Butler Area Public Library. That library was started by a group of hard working women – some might even say demanding women – who insisted that the community needed a library. And, the community agreed, entrusting them with the immense responsibility. Yet those same women had no right to actively participate in the election process.
To me, that is mind boggling.
My father’s mother was born in 1913. That means that I am only the second generation of women in that familial line born into an America where women could vote, and the first generation born into an America that allowed women to have their own credit cards. But, I am still not living in an America where women have equal pay.
I am astounded that women have had to demand their rights in the first place, and that the struggle continues. I stand on the shoulders of those who demanded voting rights, financial independence, and bodily autonomy. Today, I march alongside those who demand equality in pay, protection for trans women and non-binary people, and the acknowledgment that Black lives of all genders matter. And I pass the torch on to the next generation, already demanding we protect the earth and listen to scientists.
The next time you encounter a demanding woman, remember all she and her predecessors have given you. Thank you Susan, Clara, Harriet, Ida, Rosa, Ruth, Sojourner, Marsha, Sylvia, Alicia, Opal, Patrisse, Greta, and countless others who have been demanding.
Tiffany Harkleroad is the Youth Services Librarian at the Butler Area Public Library, in Butler PA. She has long championed graphic novels for readers of all ages. She lives in Butler with her husband, their two adorable dogs, and their very cranky cat. When not reading graphic novels, she can be found playing board games, binging on documentaries, listening to podcasts, and taking long naps.