When Alexander Hamilton, George Washington and 37 other delegates signed the Constitution in 1787, they did so with a promise. "We the people," began the document that established the nation and its fundamental laws. Except, they didn't actually mean all the people.
Black men were slaves, Native Americans defined as aliens and women seen as the property of their husbands. "It was we the people," women's rights activist Susan B. Anthony declared in 1872, "not we, the white male citizens; nor yet we, the male citizens; but we, the whole people, who formed the Union."
Hers was another rallying call in the decades-long cry for equal rights, a fight that was still, somehow, just beginning. For another half century, fearless women—Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Ida B. Wells and more names forever etched in our history—spoke out, campaigned, protested and, yes, were even arrested as they demanded their voices be heard and be given the same consideration as men.
That time finally came in August 1920 when the 19th amendment officially went into effect, giving most women the power to vote. (It would take another 45 years for women of color to be able to exercise that same right.)
Come that November, more than 8 million proud women arrived at the polls, ready to vote for the very first time. At this moment, in the 2020 election, more than 90 million people have already voted, women turning out en masse, filling out their ballots in the hopes of creating a better world for themselves, their children and each generation to follow.
Their reasons are as myriad as the women themselves, but the underlying motivation is the same: Just as Anthony advocated all those years ago, they just want their voices to be heard.
Today, to celebrate 100 years of women speaking up at the polls, we asked 100 women from all ages, backgrounds and walks of life what this right means to them. Their answers are raw, passionate and, honestly, really damn empowering. The excitement of an 18-year-old casting her first vote mixed with the experience of a 100-year-old still eager to fill in those ballot bubbles is guaranteed to fill you with pride—and purpose.