Honoring Women's Equality Day
Since 1971, August 26th has been celebrated nationwide as Women’s Equality Day. This date in August was chosen to commemorate the 1920 ratification of the 19th amendment of the US Constitution, which provided American women the right to vote.
To honor this date, we have put together some history and key moments leading up to the 1920 ratification and a little about what has happened since.
- July 1849
- The First Women’s Rights Convention was organized by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott.
- May 1851
- Sojourner Truth, a former slave, delivered her “Ain’t I a woman” speech at the Women’s Rights Convention in Akron Ohio.
- December 1869
- The Wyoming territory (not yet a State) passed America’s first women suffrage law which granted women the right to vote and hold office. Later, in 1890, Wyoming also became the first official US State to allow women the right to vote.
- May 1869
- Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton founded the National Women’s Suffrage Association, which later became The National American Woman Suffrage Association, which propelled the women’s suffrage movement forward.
- August 26, 1920
- Ratification of the 19th Amendment of the United States was completed and declared that no one would be refused the right to vote based on their gender. This is often nicknamed “The Susan B. Anthony Amendment” due to her contributions to the Women’s Suffrage Movement.
The passing of this amendment wouldn’t be the end of the equality movement for women, as the struggle continues even today. Throughout the rest of the 20th century, support for the Women’s Equality Movement continued to be rallied by women and civil rights leaders in the United States.
Additionally, even though the 19th amendment now granted women the right to vote, women of color (specifically Black, Indigenous, Asian, Puerto Rican, and many other ancestries) still did not have the right to vote due to the perpetuation of racist civil rights laws. Continued progress needed to be made, and the torch was passed to new generations of people for this fight.
- The Cable Act of 1922 allowed female US citizens who married non-US-citizens to keep their US citizenship if they married a man who was eligible for citizenship. Previously, women in this situation lost their US citizenship.
- The Snyder Act of 1924 (also known at the time as “Indian Citizenship Act of 1924”) was an act that officially granted Indigenous People, born in the United States, full citizenship and the right to vote, including women. Indigenous women people still did not receive their full rights to vote (guaranteed by the Snyder Act) in every state until at least the 1960’s.
- Literacy tests began to be used as a method of disenfranchising people of color (specifically, women) in various States. These tests were designed to keep those who had not had access to the same schools and education system from voting.
It wasn’t until the Voting Rights Act of 1965, (one of the most expansive pieces in civil rights legislation) that all women, regardless of race, were finally afforded the right to vote even as individual and systemic racial discrimination was still prevalent. Eventually, Rep. Bella Abzug from New York proposed the first Women’s Equality Day to congress in 1971 which finally passed in 1973.
So where are we today? We’ve come a long way, but according to multiple sources, women are still paid less than their male counterparts earn (around $.82 for every $1.00) and the wage gap becomes even greater when you factor race into the mix.
Additionally, female representation in national US leadership is still less than male counterparts:
Women in Leadership positions in Congress: 26.7%
Women in Leadership in Statewide Elective Executive Offices: 31%
- Women in WA in Statewide Leadership Postions: 41.5%
- Women in OR in Statewide Leadership Positions: 44.4%
The above information is just a fraction of the history surrounding the complex issue of women’s equality. We’ve come so far, but we can always do more to honor the strong, capable women each of us has in our lives.