Ninety nine years ago today the 19th amendment was ratified and adopted after Tennessee became the 36th state to vote in favor of the amendment, the high point of a decade’s long struggle in this great nation, and a millennia long fight across the world.
Ninety nine years ago today, the right to vote was restored to women in this county, bringing with it promise and opportunity to succeed and stand as the equals we are. The suffragists had won; no more second class citizens, but voters all. I am proud to say that New Jersey’s own Alice Paul was one of the leaders who made it happen, organizing the Silent Sentinels, a continuous protest for over two years outside the gates of the White House. Not a single word was heard from these women who had had their voices silenced, who were abused at the hands of their fellow citizens and the government sworn to protect them.
Alice and her friends were arrested and held in squalid conditions for weeks, they were held in solitary, force fed, and beaten by over forty guards. Their heads were smashed against walls, and when they were done, chained them up standing in their cells overnight, all for the crime of wanting the vote, for demanding their rights as American citizens.
Their efforts and sacrifices won them, and all women today, victory in the end. We won the vote, but the story for New Jersey doesn’t end there. I am proud to say that just one year later Margaret Laird and Jennie Van Ness became the first two women elected the New Jersey State Assembly as Republicans. Mary Norton beat my party here in New Jersey to the House four years later, becoming the first female democrat elected there (our friends in Montana have the honor of electing the first woman to any federal office with Jeannette Rankin, (R).
Ninety Nine years of the vote, and over one hundred and thirty different representatives during that time period; but only seven women. Rep. Norton (D), Rep. Florence Dwyer (R), Helen Meyner (D), Rep. Millicent Fenwick (R), Rep. Marge Roukema (R), and current Reps. Bonnie Coleman (D) and Mikie Sherrill (D).
I am honored to stand on the shoulders of the giants who came before me, to stand in the shade of the trees they planted but they had only just begun to see. It is my duty and pleasure to follow in their example. When I was elected Freeholder it marked the first time the board had more women than men serving on it. On November 5th, if the good people of Morris County see fit to elect me to the office, I will be the first woman to hold the office of Surrogate in Morris County.
Ninety Nine years from today I can only hope that our daughters are in Town Halls and in the boardroom of business across the county in numbers far greater than seven for every one hundred and thirty. Not because it was given to them, but because they stood on our shoulders and earned those positions for themselves, and because today we continue building the foundation for their success in the way only this great country can.
God Bless those early Suffragists for making it possible for me, and women throughout the Nation to not only vote but to stand as your representatives today, and God Bless.
Heather J. Darling
Deputy Director of the Morris County Board of Chosen Freeholders
and Candidate for Morris County Surrogate