Monthly Archives: August 2011

Women’s Equality Day: I Hope They Danced

The following post is written by LWVNJ President Toni Zimmer.

It’s hard to imagine the emotions that must have surged through the hearts of American women back on August 26, 1920 – the day they received the right to vote through passage of the 19th Amendment. It may be impossible to replicate those feelings, but what I can do is take you on a virtual trip back in time, to describe how the historic day unfolded in Washington, changed the future for all of us, and where we find ourselves today.

The fate of the 19th Amendment was decided by a single vote, by 24-year-old legislator Harry Burn, of Tennessee, who switched from “no” to “yes” in response to a letter from his mother saying, “Hurrah, and vote for suffrage!” The Secretary of State in Washington, DC issued the 19th Amendment’s proclamation immediately, well before breakfast on August 26, 1920, in order to head off any final obstructionism.

Did women kick up their heels and dance in the streets when they heard the news? I really don’t know, but they certainly deserved to. Our country had taken a tremendous step forward that could not have been accomplished without the decades of hard work, courage and planning put forth by woman suffrage movement leaders and supporters.

A couple of years before that historic day, leaders of the suffrage movement began to carefully plan for it. They realized that winning the right to vote would be just the beginning of full citizenship for women. As new voters, women would have to be taught the fundamental elements of voting, including how and where to register and vote, how to interpret ballot issues, and how to assess candidates. They would also need to be informed and educated on an array of relevant issues to cast their votes effectively and with conviction.  And so, the League of Women Voters was conceptualized, ready and waiting in the wings to step forward on that incredible day as the official organization to help women make the historic transition into the world of the informed voter.

The League of Women Voters of New Jersey joined in the original 1920 effort to launch this successful transition. Today, 91 years after it was officially founded in Newark, the League of Women Voters of New Jersey has grown to include 35 local League organizations throughout the state, and is supported by members who continue to serve the civic needs of all New Jersey citizens. The League of Women Voters of New Jersey registers thousands of voters, defends voting rights, supports women’s rights, and actively educates citizens on important issues so they can have an effective voice in government to bring about constructive change.

We are proud and grateful for the efforts of the strong and principled women who sacrificed and fought for so many years to bring equality to all women by standing up and insisting upon the passage of the 19th Amendment.  We believe that a secure future depends on citizens learning about the issues, speaking out, and seeking positive solutions to the problems confronting our communities and our country.

Of course, there is still lots of work to be done, but before we continue on, we should take some time off to celebrate Women’s Equality Day, as many celebrated this day back in 1920.  I hope they danced.

League of Women Voters of New Jersey demands firm commitment to clean air

The League of Women Voters of New Jersey kicked off the Clean Air Promise Campaign Tuesday in Newark. Alongside other environmental, public health, and advocacy organizations the League of Women Voters encouraged all citizens, community leaders, and elected officials to make the “Clean Air Promise”, a simple promise to safeguard the health of our children and our families through protection of the highly successful and popular Clean Air Act.  The Clean Air Promise, a national campaign, aims to protect the health of children and families across the country from dangerous air pollution.

The campaign comes at a time that some public officials have attempted to undermine the Clean Air Act and strip the Environmental Protection Agency of its ability to limit air pollution and emission of toxics like mercury, arsenic and other dangerous substances which threaten public health.

“For too long, the debate about pollution has focused on “overregulation” and featured false assertions that environmental protections hurt our economy,” said Toni Zimmer, president of the League of Women Voters of New Jersey. “The fact is clean air saves lives and we must put the safety of our families and children first.”

According to a report released by the EPA, the Clean Air Act saved 160,000 lives in 2010 alone. “The EPA’s report outlines not only the health benefits of the Clean Air Act, but the economic benefits as well. In 2010 alone, the Clean Air Act prevented 13 million lost work days saving on health care costs and making for a healthier, and more productive work force,” added Zimmer.

“As the mother of three asthmatic children, I understand all too well the harmful effects of air pollution,” stated Kim Gaddy, Chair of the Newark Environmental Commission.  “I understand staying up nights with a child that can’t breathe.  We must, for the sake of our children, protect the clean air act.”

Air quality in Newark is especially poor and one in four children in the city suffers from asthma. Ana Baptista of the Ironbound Community Corporation added, “In the Ironbound we see daily reminders of the deleterious effects of toxic air pollution on our most vulnerable residents, children, and seniors. Our children grow up in an environment where they must come indoors for recess on days when there are ozone alerts and the air quality is poor. We must take a stand to protect Clean Air for the health and well being of our communities.”

However, there is still more work to be done. “Power plants are the leading source of toxic air pollution for children and families in New Jersey,” said Debbie Mans, New Jersey League of Conservation Voters Education Fund. “Air toxics from coal-fired power plants cause cancer, birth defects, and respiratory illness, including asthma.  We urge every citizen, public official and community leader to sign the Clean Air Promise and protect the air we breathe.”

“I encourage all New Jerseyans, including our elected officials, community leaders, and business leaders, to join with the League of Women Voters of New Jersey in making a promise to keep us all safe from toxics and pollutants. Make the promise to show your support of clean air policies and other protections that scientists and public health experts have recommended to the EPA. Visit www.peoplenotpolluters.org today and let the country know New Jersey demands clean air” concluded Zimmer.

Watch a video of Toni at the rally.

Get Involved – Join the League of Women Voters of New Jersey!