Law Day 2020: How the Fight for Women’s Suffrage Informs Our Mission
Access to justice is at the core of what we do at the Law School Admission Council. And while our work in legal education has furthered that mission for more than half a century, it wouldn’t be possible without those who fought for the basic rights we too often take for granted today. One of those rights is women’s suffrage, and this year’s Law Day, which is today, May 1, focuses on the 100th anniversary of that landmark achievement.
The 2020 theme of Law Day, an initiative by the American Bar Association, is “Your Vote, Your Voice, Our Democracy: The 19th Amendment at 100.” Passed by Congress in 1919 and ratified in August of 1920, this amendment gave American women the right to vote, capping a movement that began early in our country’s history and included well-known figures such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony as well as thousands of others whose efforts are hidden from history but likewise vital to the cause.
But while universal women’s suffrage was a major achievement, work remained — and still remains — to be done, as Pamela Roberts, the chair of Law Day 2020, told the ABA Journal. “The 19th Amendment was a milestone in expanding voting rights for women, but it also left other groups behind,” Roberts said. “Work remained to expand the franchise to most African Americans and other groups as well. The ongoing effort to achieve equal justice is still necessary.”
Indeed, this anniversary serves as a reminder not just of how far we’ve come, but also how far we still have to go. Even today, the ability to vote remains out of reach for too many people, both from legal and policy constraints on voting rights as well as practical constraints on individuals’ abilities to vote even when they have the right to do so. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic recently brought that reality into sharp focus in Wisconsin, where people were forced to risk their health to exercise their right to vote.
But the pandemic also reminds us that suffrage is just one aspect of a fair and just society. In these uncertain, challenging, and sometimes frightening times, the rule of law, and the ability of all people to access the legal system to achieve a fair outcome for themselves and their families, is more important than ever. At LSAC, we know a key component of that access is ensuring that the justice system reflects the communities it serves, which is why we’ll continue to help our member law schools enroll diverse classes of students who will one day add their voices to the quest for equal justice.
We’re honored to join the ABA in celebrating Law Day 2020. By building on the work of the women’s suffrage movement and other important campaigns for justice, we’ll continue to build a society that is more just, more prosperous, and more able to meet the challenges of a changing world.