Celebrating 100 Years of the 19th Amendment
This past year has been filled with challenges — the entire world has been preoccupied with adjusting to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. But for many of us, the turmoil of the last several months has afforded us the chance to reflect on positive changes and to express gratitude. We can see a light at the end of the tunnel, and there is always an opportunity to be thankful. Although we’ve been busy dealing with the pandemic’s impact on our communities, I would like to take a moment to celebrate an important landmark in U.S. history and to give thanks for its effect on society and on my life as a lawyer.
The Florida Supreme Court is commemorating the centennial of the 19th Amendment, ratified on August 26, 1920, granting American women the right to vote in elections after decades of activism. It was a major milestone that seems like it happened just recently if you look at the big picture — only 100 years ago. It was only in 1993 — also not that long ago — that now Judge Patricia Seitz was elected the first female Bar president. At the time, I was in the early days of my career, not knowing then I’d someday become the seventh woman to lead the Bar in its 70-year history. The women who came before me made it easier for me to achieve my goals. I am indebted to them, and it’s important to recognize that these historical achievements came with tremendous struggle.
When the suffragists fought to ratify the 19th Amendment, they were making it possible for women to remove even more barriers, particularly in the legal profession. Currently, there are 35,000 women lawyers eligible to practice law in Florida, while in 1920, there were just 22 women in the profession in Florida. These early women lawyers inspired newcomers to enter the profession in greater numbers. They encouraged other lawyers to keep pursuing their dreams and to keep striving for breakthroughs in the legal field and beyond.
I thank the Florida Supreme Court for holding a ceremonial session, in which I was honored to participate, to recognize the 100th anniversary of a woman’s legal right to vote and to honor Florida women who have elevated the rule of law. The occasion gave me a moment to reflect on my own life. I am proud to be a lawyer in a country like ours. I enjoy a wonderful career in the law thanks to the women who came before me, and I am incredibly grateful.
To continue making progress, it is important to look at the past and remember how we got this far. The Bar has been actively addressing gender bias and making diversity and inclusion in the profession a top priority, supporting programs that create opportunities for all attorneys. Today, women make up 30% of the Bar’s Board of Governors and 44% of Bar committee leaders. We have come a long way, but we’ve got further to go.
I honor the brave suffragettes who had the strength to shatter the most significant glass ceiling of all, guaranteeing women the right to vote in America. Like the rest of the U.S. Constitution, the 19th Amendment is a living document that challenges us daily to aspire toward the ideals and principles embodied in the amendment. Our daughters may follow in our footsteps, and we are carving the path forward every single day. The Bar’s efforts to maintain greater diversity and inclusion in the profession will always be a significant undertaking: We must keep striving to open the door even wider for future women lawyers.