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On Women’s Equality Day we celebrate our progress and acknowledge a long road ahead

Senator Shirley Turner | August 26, 2019 | Star-Ledger |



Women’s Equality Day celebrates the signing of the 19th Amendment in 1920. It gave women the right to vote, though women of color were left to face varying degrees of voter suppression for decades to follow. The anniversary of its signing serves as a reminder that progress is not always as transcendent as it appears, and it is our job to ensure strides forward do not leave anyone behind.

Women have come a long way socially, politically and professionally since the signing of the 19th Amendment. Still, there is a long way to go before we see equality between men and women, particularly women of color. The job is not done, which is why we continue to work on legislation that levels the playing field and pushes us forward.

New Jersey is working to address our maternal mortality crisis, which deeply underscores the challenges women face when seeking basic health care, as well as the continued discrepancies of care between races and socioeconomic status. Although we have made considerable advancements in the last century, we are still fighting to ensure all people are treated equally and given the same opportunities.

When women marched for the right to vote they knew how important it was to have their voices heard. In the years since, we have made it clear we not only want to vote for the people in the room, we demand our own seat at the decision-making table.

The horrific actions driving so many new faces into the political sphere are deeply troubling, but the results we have seen are inspiring. As we approach the 2020 election, which will take place just weeks after the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage, it is only fitting that we see more women running for elected office than ever before.

Prior to 2019, only 10 women had ever run for the Democratic or Republican presidential nomination – 10 candidates over the span of 55 years. Now in the 2020 Democratic primary we see six strong female candidates, two of which are polling in the top five. It is incredible to see so many articulate, intelligent women on that debate stage. I cannot imagine what it will look like 55 years from now. The young women watching at home today are growing up with more political role models to choose from than I ever could’ve dreamed of as a child.

Historically, women are less likely to be encouraged to run for office and less likely to see themselves as qualified to hold public office but finally the tide is beginning to turn. Today we see more women jumping into the political arena at the local, state, and federal level and with so many strong political figures to look up to, I’m certain the trend will continue.

When I was a young girl, I did not see people who looked like me running for statewide office, let alone the presidency. I was a teenager when the first black woman was elected to the New Jersey Legislature. Now, when I look around our caucus table, I see men and women of all backgrounds, ensuring children of all races and ethnicities can see themselves in someone holding public office.

The passion I see from today’s young people, who so deeply value having their voices heard and making a difference in the world, leaves me confident we will never stop making groundbreaking progress. The 19th Amendment was just the beginning.

State Sen. Shirley Turner represents the 15th legislative district.