I had never heard of this day! Have you? I knew about Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day, but Women’s Equality Day?! I pride myself on being a well-read feminist, but in all of my women’s studies, I have never come across this day! Why is that? How did this day come to be?
The 19th Amendment to the Constitution states that “the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States on or by any state on account of sex.” The bill was introduced to Congress in 1919 and officially became federal law on August 26, 1920 – granting women the right to vote.
While this amendment prohibited voting discrimination based on sex, it did not protect against race, religion, or language. Women of color would have to continue the fight. While the 19th amendment granted them the right, it was in name only. These marginalized groups of women encountered poll taxes, literacy tests, voter ID requirements, Jim Crow laws, intimidation, threats, and violence. Native American, Asian, Latinx, and African American women would slowly gain access to the ballot box over the next 5 decades.
In 1970, the National Organization of Women, (NOW) organized the Women’s Strike for Equality on August 26. In New York City, 50,000 women and even more nationwide came together to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment and to advocate for 3 main goals: equal opportunities in the workplace, on-demand abortion, and free 24/7 childcare.
One year later, Congresswoman Bella Abzug of New York, presented a joint resolution to Congress commemorating August 26th as Women’s Equality Day! Making August 26, 1972, the first year that this day would be celebrated.
We have a day; let’s celebrate!
We have much to celebrate in women’s rights, economic independence, educational advancements, and workplace protections. (Heck, my dress has pockets!) Many of these efforts would not have been possible without the unity of women across the country and the male allies throughout the century.
Here’s a look at a few of the rights gained since 1920.
- 1938: Guaranteed minimum wage
- 1947: Serve on juries
- 1960: Buy birth control
- 1964: Fair access to employment (Affirmative Action)
- 1968: Equal access to job listings
- 1970: Paid the same as men for the same work
- 1973: Terminate a pregnancy
- 1974: Open a credit card in their own name
- 1978: Work without discrimination due to pregnancy
- 1985: Divorce their husband on grounds of “irreconcilable differences”
- 1986: Seek damages for sexual harassment in the workplace
- 1993: Marital rape became a criminal offense
- 1999: Access to the morning-after pill
- 2009: File a complaint about pay discrimination
- 2013: Fight on the front lines in the military
- 2015: Marry other women
Steps I’m Taking to Celebrate Women’s Equality Day from now on!
1. Tell everyone I know!
I’m going to share what I’ve learned with everyone I know. Then, I’m going to social media with the hashtag #WomensEqualityDay and join the conversation.
2. Support Women
- Shop at women-owned businesses
- Seek out female mentors
- Practice the Shine Theory
- Seek to understand and truly listen to varying viewpoints.
- Read more books by women in men-dominated fields.
- Lend a hand to other women whenever I can.
- Speak up
3. Call My Representative
Having rights is great, but it’s not guaranteed. Many question these rights and want them repealed.
I plan to help ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. All we need is three more states — Oklahoma being one of them.
This is necessary because “Without the ERA, the U.S. Constitution does not explicitly guarantee that the rights it protects are held equally by all citizens without regard to sex. The first — and still the only — right that the U.S. Constitution specifically affirms and applies equally to women and men is the right to vote.” Click Here to contact your local representative.
Happy Women’s Equality Day, y’all!