The Backstory: A look at the 19th Amendment, the women who've continued the fight for equality, and why the work is far from finished.

I'm USA TODAY editor-in-chief Nicole Carroll, and this is The Backstory, insights into our biggest stories of the week. If you'd like to get The Backstory in your inbox every week, sign up here.

Four years ago, Emily Ramshaw had an idea she just couldn't shake. She wanted to create a national newsroom that would cover the intersection of women, politics and policy. That idea, The 19th*, launched Monday.

"The idea first entered my head when I was on maternity leave with my daughter," says Ramshaw, the former editor of the Texas Tribune. "It was during the 2016 election, and we were seeing so many conversations around electability and likeability, which are two words that are basically all they used for women."

She thought her idea could change the narrative and bring perspective from people who know the issues best. 

"But then I was changing dirty diapers and covered in spit up and then in like a dark black hole of postpartum depression," Ramshaw said. "And that idea moved quickly out of my head. I didn't think about it much for another three years, until we entered the 2020 election cycle. And suddenly those exact same conversations about electability and likeability were coming up, even though we had more women on the presidential debate stage than we'd ever had before.

"And I thought, 'Oh my God, this is a moment. I can't miss this opportunity. This election is hugely consequential. This moment in history is hugely consequential. I'm really gonna regret it if I don't take the leap.'

"And so that was where it all began."

The 19th* is a nonprofit, nonpartisan newsroom (the asterisk stands for the unfinished business of the 19th Amendment, recognizing those still omitted from democracy). Ramshaw is co-founder and CEO. Amanda Zamora is co-founder and publisher. This week's launch will be followed by a summit next week featuring the voices of women shaping history. The lineup includes speakers such as U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, Melinda Gates, Stacey Abrams and Meryl Streep.

This week, it was announced that Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, will close out the virtual summit by interviewing Ramshaw about creating a transformative newsroom.

“The 19th*’s commitment to reporting and storytelling that lifts up those who are too often underrepresented in the media has never been more important,” the duchess said in a statement to Glamour. “I’m looking forward to asking the co-founder what it means to build a media outlet with gender equity, diversity, and community at its core.” 

USA TODAY is a launch partner of The 19th*, along with Univision. You'll be seeing their stories in USA TODAY and in our more than 260 publications nationwide. We're proud to amplify their work. 

The first story in this partnership ran on the front page of our Tuesday newspaper. It explored how the pandemic recession is hitting women harder than men.

"Women in America are living the consequence of years of occupational segregation that kept them out of managerial positions, stuck in low-paying jobs with few safeguards such as paid sick leave," wrote The 19th*'s Chabeli Carrazana.

"When a third of the female workforce – the grocery clerks, home health aides and social workers – became 'essential workers' this year, they were faced with difficult decisions about preserving their health or keeping their jobs. The rest found themselves more likely to be in positions that vanished overnight, such as the housekeepers and the retail clerks, or on the margins, in the jobs at risk of never coming back. 

"The losses threaten decades of steady, hard-won progress." 

Ramshaw felt it was an important story to tell.

"All you have to do is look around to see the ways that women are disproportionately affected," she said. "And you hear the frustrations of, you know, women of privilege who are trying to navigate this moment with their kids at home, but you don't hear as many of the stories of women living in poverty who are grappling with this, women who have minimum wage jobs or who are front-line workers, essential workers."

We think these are critical stories to tell as well, and you'll see them in coming days and weeks across the USA TODAY Network. 

In June, our digital audience was more than 147 million people, including 78 million women. Our readers are highly engaged in politics and policy, and they are looking for stories that reflect them, their communities and their realities.

"We're particularly excited about the USA TODAY Network partnership and the Univision partnership because of the pure reach and how on brand it is for us from a mission standpoint," Ramshaw said. "Univision is translating our work into Spanish and distributing it to totally new audiences for us, and the USA TODAY Network is the fastest and surest way to reach the kind of regional diversity that we think is critical to our storytelling and our audience building."

The 19th Amendment was ratified 100 years ago this month. Starting next week, USA TODAY launches Women of the Century, a project that details the fight for the right to vote and the women who've continued to make an impact.

"The thing that surprised me the most was all of the incredible women that I didn’t know about," said Philana Patterson, a USA TODAY managing editor who has overseen the project. "Felicitas Mendez, for example, fought for school desegregation. I had never heard of her. If people spend time with this project, they will learn so much about our American story."

Starting Monday, we'll publish interviews with women who've made a significant impact on their communities and their country over the past 100 years, women such as entertainer Rita Moreno, civil rights icons Ruby Bridges and Dolores Huerta, women's and LGBTQ activist Billie Jean King and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

On Friday, Aug. 14, we'll recognize 100 national "Women of the Century" as well as extraordinary women in all 50 states, plus D.C. and the U.S. territories. In addition, we'll feature "Womankind" videos on behind-the-scenes women doing critical work in their communities. 

"I hope that this project exposes people to women they didn’t read about in their history books or see on television," Patterson said. "We’ve got many famous women with household names dotted across this project, but I find myself most inspired by many of the women I didn’t know who work in our communities to make them better."

Nicole Carroll is the editor-in-chief of USA TODAY. Reach her at or follow her on Twitter here. Thank you for supporting our journalism. You can subscribe to our print edition, ad-free experience or electronic newspaper replica here. 

Women like Ellu Nasser, in Austin, have had to make tough decisions about balancing employment and child care. The lucky ones were women who had a choice at all.