This year marks the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote. A century later, the tireless dedication and determination of the women who fought for voting rights lives on. One local author is helping to shed light on the struggle.
Jana Bommersbach is a journalist, author and speaker with AZ Speaks, a popular program of Arizona Humanities. She has researched and reported on many topics over the years, but one subject that has always stuck with her is women’s suffrage. That interest led Bommersbach to create a presentation dedicated to the 19th Amendment, called “Hyenas in Petticoats.”
Although her upcoming appearances were postponed, Bommersbach looks forward to sharing her message in the future and encouraging women to embrace a deeper appreciation for their right to vote.
“Many in this country don’t even know the story of what happened or how long it took, how much they worked, how much they suffered,” Bommersbach said. “It took suffragettes almost 75 years to get the vote from when they started.”
Despite facing incredible opposition, American women persevered in their attempts. Arizona became the 10th state to give women the right to vote in 1912. Eight years later, that right was finally guaranteed for women around the country.
“When we voted as a state on suffrage for women on the ballot in November 1912, 68 percent of male voters approved it. Every single one of the counties passed it,” Bommersbach said.
While 90 percent of eligible women were registered to vote following the monumental suffrage, that number has dropped since then. Bommersbach said that currently, only 62 percent of women in Arizona are registered to vote, and only about 50 percent of them do.
“Many women do not understand how important it was, what fight we had to go through, and how we shouldn’t take our vote for granted,” Bommersbach said.
She is passionate about highlighting the huge sacrifices women made on their journey to vote, and she hopes modern-day women remember this and secure the most from their rights. “I hope they have respect for how strong these women were and their persistence. They just kept on and didn’t give up,” Bommersbach said.
Bommersbach said that during the women’s suffrage movement, suffragists submitted 480 petitions to state legislatures to ask for the right to vote and initiated 227 campaigns to get state political parties to put women’s suffrage in their platforms. There were 56 state referendum campaigns, with Arizona being one of them.
Many of the suffragettes faced relentless ridicule, suffered verbal and physical abuse as they took to the streets and even went to jail for speaking their minds. Considering those remarkable efforts, Bommersbach is eager to see more women voting, not only in this anniversary year but beyond. “I’d like to see every eligible woman in Arizona register to vote.”