Only 15 miles from ALEC headquarters in Arlington, Virginia lies a relic of a bygone era: the Lorton Workhouse and Reformatory. Originally built in 1910 by the very prisoners it would house, shortly after its opening it became the home of the Silent Sentinels — women who stood in front of the White House six days a week, silently protesting; demanding the right to vote.
Surely one of the earliest suffragists, Susan B. Anthony said it best: “No self-respecting woman should wish or work for the success of a party that ignores her sex.” A banner emblazoned with this quote was displayed at the 1920 Republican National Convention in Chicago by suffragist leaders Mrs. James Rector, Mary Dubrow and Alice Paul.
In Women’s History Month, 100 years after women were granted the franchise, we’ve come a long way. But, we’ve a long way to go.
The right to vote is important for the equality of all citizens. Representation at the ballot box was an important step. But, 100 years later, representation in elected office remains the next milestone.
During the 2018 midterm elections, the public was promised a change in the legislature; it was going to be the “year of the women.” Droves of voters submitted their ballot in support of the record-breaking number of female candidates, and Americans across the states celebrated when 102 women were elected in the House and 14 women were elected in the Senate.
The country patted itself on the back — but not all Americans felt the celebratory spirit. In the midst of an election where the “women’s movement” was heavily associated with victimization and the issues used to enable this attitude, one voice was left unheard: the voice of the market-minded, conservative woman.
As the women of the Democratic Party gained 18 House seats, bringing the number to 80, Republican women watched their representation fall from 22 to 13 seats in the House. In the state legislatures only 29% of seats are held by women. Of those seats, Republican women hold less than half.
It’s clear: 2018 was not the year of all women. But the future for market-minded, female representation is not bleak. According to the Center for American Women in Politics, 170 Republican women and 348 Democratic women have filed or are considered strong potential candidates for the House — nearly tripling the number of Republican women that ran in the 2018 cycle. These free market women are not running on the mindset of victimization, and they are ready to step up to the plate and break records.
And what of our responsibility — the conservative women ready to see principled representation for the unique voice we offer? It is time for free market women to support free market women. It’s time to take back our perspective on the women’s movement and reestablish that it does not belong to a party. All issues are nonpartisan, and all issues are women’s issues.
Think of the suffragettes that risked it all a century before. Think of the women of today in the Middle East who still need permission to vote from their husbands or fathers. Think of the women in countries like Uganda and Kenya who face violent protests at the polls and put themselves at risk to merely exercise their rights. They do not see themselves as victims — they continue to fight against the oppression because they know their voice is valuable.
How lucky we are in the United States to be able to put our voice into action at the voting booths. But it’s not luck; it was the work of the thousands of women and allies that fought tirelessly against the current for years. While long overdue, the 19th Amendment gave us that right, and now it is time to use it intentionally. We — the previously underrepresented women of free-market principles — must exercise our right and elect the women we know to be natural leaders and protectors of community and liberty.
Support the leaders that will show compassion and empathy, compromise, honesty, ethical decision-making and, most importantly, the leaders who will stand strong on what they believe in. Cast your vote to the women that value free enterprise and individual liberty, and who want to see a thriving economy for our children and our children’s children.
2018 can have “year of the women.” 2020 will be the year of the “market-minded” women.
Copyright 2019 Lisa B. Nelson, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. Nelson is the chief executive office of the American Legislative Exchange Council, an organization bringing state legislators and stakeholders together to develop public policy beneficial to the free market and individual liberty.