Weekend Reading on Women’s Representation: How Black Suffragists Fought for Voting Rights; Women’s (In)Equality Day; Former Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell Challenges Rick Scott

Weekend Reading on Women’s Representation is a compilation of stories about women’s representation in politics, on boards, in sports and entertainment, in judicial offices and in the private sector in the U.S. and around the world—with a little gardening and goodwill mixed in for refreshment!

Aug. 26 is Women’s Equality Day, which marks the anniversary of the certification of the 19th Amendment. The Amendment gave some women the right to vote. Women of color did not get the right to vote until 1965, when the Voting Rights Act was passed.

Bella Abzug, a feminist, lawyer and social activist, played a pivotal role in establishing Women’s Equality Day. Her nickname “Battling Bella” is a testament to her unwavering dedication to women’s rights, which led to the formal recognition of Aug. 26 as Women’s Equality Day.

While it is important to celebrate the progress we have made toward gender equality, it is essential that we acknowledge the steps we have yet to take for a more equitable society. This theme is explored in the League of Women Voters’ Women’s Inequality Day Campaign. Some strides towards gender equality have been reversed, and women of this generation shockingly have fewer rights than generations prior. Sign the petition to help fix this issue today!

Saturday Marks Women’s Equality Day, Yet Study Reveals Continued Difficulty in Achieving Parity

A statue of women’s rights pioneers—Sojourner Truth, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony—unveiled at Central Park on Women’s Equality Day in 2020. (John Nacion / SOPA Images / LightRocket via Getty Images)

Marie Leech from Biz Women writes about how parity remains elusive. Despite the Women’s Equality Day celebrations this weekend, the disparities in women’s representation—particularly in employment, wages and government—are still significantly low compared to our male counterparts. 

“While women’s rights have made leaps and bounds since the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1919 — the event that Women’s Equality Day marks — the United States failed in 2023 to place in the top 10, or even the top 30, of the World Economic Forum’s ranking of 146 countries based on gender parity. Instead, it ranked 43rd, falling significantly from the previous year’s ranking of 27th.

And according to WalletHub’s annual Best and Worst States for Women’s Equality released this week, women earn less than men in every state, have the highest share of minimum-wage jobs in nearly every state, and hold fewer positions in nearly every state legislature than their male counterparts. Inflation has only made it worse, experts say.

“Quite simply, it makes it worse in the sense that it exacerbates the impact of the gender pay gap,” said Angela Hattery, professor and co-director of the Center for the Study and Prevention of Gender-Based Violence at the University of Delaware. “Women, already making less than men, will be significantly more impacted by inflation; it will make paying the rent, child care, and putting food on the table more impossible than it already is. Women may find themselves working longer hours and taking on second and third jobs just to afford a basic, minimal standard of living.”

When it comes to state legislatures, male lawmakers outnumber their female counterparts. Nevada has the highest gap favoring women, with 62.5 percent more women. West Virginia has the highest gap favoring men, with 87.39 percent more men.

Black Suffragists’ Crucial Role in the Fight for Voting Rights

Ida B. Wells in 1897 (Wikimedia Commons)

An article by Eliza Siegel for Stacker sheds light on the numerous Black suffragists forgotten by history: Mary Church Terrell, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, Fannie Lou Hamer, Ida B. Wells, Alice Dunbar-Nelson, Fannie Barrier Williams, Sojourner Truth, Lugenia Burns Hope, Mary McLeod Bethune and Nannie Helen Burroughs.

Many white suffragists, among them Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, initially endorsed the abolitionist cause. However, their stance shifted after Black men were granted the right to vote in 1869. Black women played vital roles in advocating for suffrage and civil rights. 

The 1848 Seneca Falls convention has become the de facto point of origin for feminist activism in the U.S. In mainstream retellings of the suffrage movement, Anthony and Stanton are heralded not only as the primary leaders of the movement but as devoted abolitionists who dedicated themselves as intently to fighting for racial equality as they did to the struggle for the vote. Until recently, few accounts of the movement acknowledged that many white suffragists, including Anthony and Stanton, started as abolitionists but ultimately turned against Black Americans when Black men obtained the right to vote in 1869.

While more attention has been brought to the racism within the suffrage movement over the past several years, classroom narratives often perpetuate a sanitized version of events—one that also leaves out the contributions of Black suffragists. Even the fact that Black women did not fully secure voting rights until 1965 and that Latina, Asian American, and Indigenous women fought for enfranchisement for decades after the 19th Amendment passed is frequently omitted from accounts of the movement.

Yet Black women played a crucial role in the movement—both in advocating for the vote for all women prior to the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920 and fighting for its equal enforcement after 1920, as Jim Crow laws kept Black women and other women of color from the polls. Black suffragists fought not only for the vote but also for the life and livelihood of all Black Americans, campaigning hard for anti-lynching legislation and opportunities for advancement after the Emancipation Proclamation. They also created broad, diverse bases for change, bringing together people across races, genders, and classes.

Rick Scott Has a New Challenger in Florida Senate Race: Former Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell 

In an article for the New York Times, Neil Vigdor showcases how one woman’s entry into Florida’s Senate race is bringing women’s equality to the forefront for many of the state’s voters.

Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell is running for Senate, posing a challenge to incumbent Republican Senator Rick Scott. No stranger to politics, Mucarsel-Powell previously represented Miami in the House for one term from 2019 to 2021. Not only would her win signify a significant victory for the Democratic Party, she would also make history by becoming the second Latina elected to the Senate. 

In a campaign introduction video posted on social media, she sought to cast Mr. Scott as a hard-line opponent of women’s reproductive rights who would seek to ban abortion nationally. She also criticized his past support for cutting Social Security and Medicare as a way to balance the federal budget and rein in the national debt. He later reversed that position.

“Ya no más,” she said in Spanish in the video, meaning “no more,” and later added, “I’ve already fought guys like Rick Scott, and beat them.”

Noting that she was the first South American immigrant elected to Congress and that she once worked for minimum wage at a doughnut shop, Ms. Mucarsel-Powell sought to draw an economic and cultural contrast to Mr. Scott. Mr.

Ranked-Choice Voting Gains Ground Despite Pushback

Earlier this week, Matt Vasilogambros published an article in the Missouri Independent about ranked-choice voting. Over 13 million Americans across 51 jurisdictions now use RCV in political elections. Despite its growing popularity, there has been noticeable pushback from both Democrats and Republicans. 

The two major parties argue that RCV is too complex and could confuse or deter voters. However, as Deb Otis points out, this opposition is likely due to a fear of change; both Democrats and Republicans have greater confidence in their ability to win under the old system and are unsure if RCV would consistently work to their advantage. Otis, the director of policy and research at FairVote, contends that RCV could encourage candidates to broaden their appeal and support a larger range of diversity among candidates.

The major parties have also failed to acknowledge that ranked-choice voting can significantly facilitate women’s political representation. RCV reduces incentives for negative campaigning, a common deterrent for women candidates.

RCV also eliminates “vote splitting” and strategic voting, where voters base their decision on who they believe is most likely to win. RCV allows voters to cast their ballots in a way that aligns with their genuine preferences. In turn, RCV creates more political opportunities for women, especially women of color. 

Proponents of the system argue it encourages candidates to appeal to a broad swath of the electorate while also leading to a more diverse candidate pool and less negative campaigning.

But the challenge to the status quo has led to opposition from people in power, said Deb Otis, director of research and policy at FairVote, a nonpartisan organization leading the advocacy effort to adopt ranked choice voting.

“Sometimes, when we see party opposition, that can be a reflection of elected officials who know how to campaign, know how to win under the old system, not quite ready to want to throw that system out yet,” she said in an interview.

From the Soccer Field to Society: How the Women’s World Cup Reflects Global Strides in Gender Equality

Megan Rapinoe during the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023 on Aug. 6, 2023 in Melbourne, Australia. (Jose Breton / Pics Action / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Deborah de Lange ties strides in women’s soccer and equality to the gender development index in her piece for The Conversation. The recent FIFA Women’s World Cup showcased exhilarating matches and echoed a broader shift towards the call for equal treatment of women in sports and beyond. The performance of countries in the tournament is linked to their efforts to combat gender inequality. Top-ranking teams like Sweden, England, Spain and Australia have implemented gender equality policies beyond sports, including policies for equal pay, paternity leave and more.

Concurrently, there is a noticeable correlation between countries’ soccer achievements and sustainable development, as those that rank high in the Women’s World Cup also tend to score well in the U.N. Human Development Index and the Planetary Pressures-Adjusted Human Development Index. Moreover, countries with higher Gender Development Index scores, which measure gender-based disparities in life expectancy, education, and earned income, show better performance in women’s soccer. This connection emphasizes the importance of gender equality in sports and broader socio-economic and political spheres, highlighting that countries must actively promote gender parity to harness the full potential of their populations. 

My analysis found that a lower environmental footprint was associated with higher team success. This implies that our environmental activities affect women’s capabilities to succeed — at least when national soccer scores are used as outcomes.

Unfortunately, there is still evidence of sex-selective abortions and discrimination against girls in many countries. This not only hurts the soccer scores of these countries, according to my analysis, but also extends to other areas, like government and politics.

For example, autocracies like Russia — governments where absolute power is held by one person — often rely on the consolidation of male powerto the detriment of women. Democracies, on the other hand, hinge on human rights, which include women’s rights. In fact, the top-ranking women’s soccer teams all come from democracies.

Adding a “women in sports inequality” variable to the Gender Development Index may enhance our ability to measure the impacts of these changes for the progress we so desperately need to make.

In Maryland, Women Elected Officials Gather to Discuss Advancing Women’s Rights

Speaker Adrienne A. Jones. (@SpeakerAJones / Twitter)

On August 18, several of Maryland’s women leaders convened for a luncheon at the Maryland Association of Counties in Ocean City to discuss the importance of women in politics, Danielle J. Brown from Maryland Matters reports. This convening involved opening remarks by first lady of Maryland Dawn Moore and the state’s first Black speaker of the House of Delegates, Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore County). Notably, this conference offered, for the first time, “a private nursing room for new mothers attending the event.”

Jones spoke about her legacy as the ‘first’ Black woman to serve as speaker… “When people ask me about being ‘the first’ — I tell them ‘it’s not about being the first. It’s about doing the best to help the people of Maryland,’” she said…“The role of women in government and politics has always been crucial, though not necessarily recognized,” Jones said. 

As for the effect of having more women lawmakers and administrators, Jones said there tends to be a greater interest in policies focused on quality-of-life issues, such as education and health, when more women are in leadership roles.

“Too often in the past, the question always has been ‘How can we afford to do these things?’” she said, prompting soft chuckles from around the room.

She continued: “With more women leading on the issues, the question has become ‘How can we afford not to?’”

Where Should We Dine Next Week? 

Restaurant Week is happening in D.C. August 28 through September 3! Planning on going out to eat? Rank your favorite participating restaurants to help us decide where to go!

Addressing the Gender Gap in Adolescents’ Political Interest & Engagement in India

Kuviraa, a non-profit based in India, recently released a report on gendered differences in youth political engagement in India. In collaboration with UCLA, the report highlights the disparity between boys and girls regarding political engagement and career aspirations. Learn more by reading the full report!

Up next:

U.S. democracy is at a dangerous inflection point—from the demise of abortion rights, to a lack of pay equity and parental leave, to skyrocketing maternal mortality, and attacks on trans health. Left unchecked, these crises will lead to wider gaps in political participation and representation. For 50 years, Ms. has been forging feminist journalism—reporting, rebelling and truth-telling from the front-lines, championing the Equal Rights Amendment, and centering the stories of those most impacted. With all that’s at stake for equality, we are redoubling our commitment for the next 50 years. In turn, we need your help, Support Ms. today with a donation—any amount that is meaningful to you. For as little as $5 each month, you’ll receive the print magazine along with our e-newsletters, action alerts, and invitations to Ms. Studios events and podcasts. We are grateful for your loyalty and ferocity.


RepresentWomen’s mission is to strengthen U.S. democracy by advancing reforms that break down barriers to ensure more women can run, win, serve and lead. The team engages in research to track the status of women’s representation in the U.S. and abroad, understand the underlying reasons women are underrepresented, and find evidence-based solutions to mitigate the problem.