August 26th annually marks the celebration of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote in the United States. This year, we celebrate the 45th anniversary of Women’s Equality Day!
This observance was enacted by Congress in 1971, upon the persistence of longtime women’s rights activist and New York Representative, Bella Abzug:
“Joint Resolution of Congress, 1971
Designating August 26 of each year as Women’s Equality Day
WHEREAS, the women of the United States have been treated as second-class citizens and have not been entitled the full rights and privileges, public or private, legal or institutional, which are available to male citizens of the United States; and
WHEREAS, the women of the United States have united to assure that these rights and privileges are available to all citizens equally regardless of sex; and
WHEREAS, the women of the United States have designated August 26, the anniversary date of the certification of the Nineteenth Amendment, as symbol of the continued fight for equal rights: and
WHEREAS, the women of United States are to be commended and supported in their organizations and activities,
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, that August 26th of each year is designated as Women’s Equality Day, and the President is authorized and requested to issue a proclamation annually in commemoration of that day in 1920, on which the women of America were first given the right to vote, and that day in 1970, on which a nationwide demonstration for women’s rights took place.”
Great strides have been made in the pursuit of Women’s Equality, but the fight has not been without its pitfalls. For instance, the 19th amendment was meant to grant ALL women the right to vote, but black women (and men) remained disenfranchised in this regard until the Civil Rights movements of the 1960s. While black women always played an extensive part in Women’s Suffrage, racism was rampant throughout the movement. After the 19th Amendment was ratified, state laws, especially in the South, aimed to keep black voters from participating in their constitutional right.
The point of Women’s Equality Day is not just to commemorate a historic event, but to celebrate the continued efforts of those who strive for equality on ALL fronts, while keeping in mind that the road thus far has been imperfect in reaching its goal. Great strides have been made, but we still have far to go. Women’s Equality shouldn’t be this insular thing, but an expansive, inclusive movement, striving for equality for everyone, regardless of race, religion or gender.
What do you think?
African American Women and Suffrage, National Women’s History Museum.
Women’s Equality Day, National Women’s History Project.