By Suzanna de Baca | President and group publisher, Business Publications Corp.

My two grandmothers had very different lives, but one thing they had in common was that both came of age before the passage of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote.

If I could go back in time, there are so many questions I would ask them: about their hopes and dreams, marriages, motherhood, struggles and accomplishments, and of course, pie recipes. But since this year marks the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, I would ask about their involvement in the fight for women’s rights, and how the vote affected them.

My paternal grandmother, Antonia Maria Garcia Cabeza de Baca, was born in 1899 in New Mexico, the oldest of 13 children. The daughter of ranchers, she did not learn English until her teens when she and her sisters attended a convent school. Grandma de Baca was quiet, serious, very religious and tough as nails. She didn’t tell many stories, but when she did, they seemed to involve rattlesnakes or cattle drives.

My maternal grandmother, Dorothy Elizabeth McCormick Marchino, was from a family of five children of an Indiana farmer and his seamstress wife. She and her siblings all attended college and she became a teacher in a time when most women did not work outside the home. Grandma was lively, feisty, creative and fun – but also demanding and authoritative. She taught fourth grade, kept her own chickens, sewed quilts and made scrumptious fried chicken.

It is almost inconceivable that these strong and commanding women grew up without the right to vote. At that time, all of women’s legal rights were extended through men. That women had no legal say in government, policy, finances or their own bodies is completely foreign. Today, women can earn money, obtain education, qualify for loans and make health care decisions independently. But in my grandmothers’ early years these rights did not exist and women needed permission from men for many things we take for granted today.

Many basic rights were finally extended to women as a result of the 19th Amendment. Congress passed this law on June 4, 1919, and ratified it on Aug. 18, 1920. The lengthy road to the vote included a difficult struggle, decades of agitation and protest that cost many women their lives. While significant, women of color or minority groups, like my Grandma de Baca, were largely absent in this landmark legislation or excluded from its benefits.

It is easy to say we have come so far. But 100 years later, full equality has not yet been achieved. There is still much progress to be made in terms of economic equity, representation in leadership, safety, inclusion, reproductive rights and equality at home.

Along with the rest of the nation, Iowa will observe the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment. Starting with a kickoff at Iowa State University’s Catt Center on Feb. 14, there will be a plethora of activities across the state commemorating this milestone.

As I attend the 19th Amendment events and contemplate the significance of the vote, I will hold my grandmothers’ memories close. I am grateful to them and the women who fought for the vote that we all enjoy basic unalienable rights. In their honor, I pledge to keep pushing forward, to advocate for more equity at home and in the workplace so that we can all live our best lives.


Suzanna de Baca is president and group publisher of Business Publications Corp. During her 25-plus years of senior leadership experience in the finance, health care and media industries, she has been a passionate advocate for diversity, equity and inclusivity and the advancement of women. Contact her via email.