Women’s Equality Day: Remembering the Suffrage, honouring the Heroines and Soldiering on!

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Women’s Equality Day commemorates 26th August 1920 when votes to women officially became part of the US constitution. This day marks a turning point in the history of the struggle for equal treatment of women and women’s rights.

In 1920, the day stood for the result of 72 years of campaigning by a huge civil rights movement for women. Prior to movements like these, even respected thinkers such as Rousseau and Kant believed that woman’s inferior status in society was completely logical and reasonable; women were ‘beautiful’ and ‘not fit for serious employment’.

Over the last century, great women have proved these views wrong as the world has witnessed just what women are capable of achieving, from the likes of Rosa Parks and Eleanor Roosevelt fighting for civil rights and equality to great scientists such as Marie Curie, Rosalind Franklin and Jane Goodall and several versions of these powerful names resonates within the African diaspora and from country to country, women have been pivotal in both advocacy and implementation. The last century has shown more than ever what both women and men are capable of achieving, given the opportunity.

Today, women’s equality has grown to mean much more than just sharing the right to the vote. Organisations such as Equality Now and Womankind Worldwide continue to work to provide women across the globe with equal opportunities to education and employment, pushing against suppression and violence towards women and against the discrimination and stereotyping which still occur in every society.

So on Women’s Equality Day, let the men do the dishes and the women do the DIY, think about supporting women’s empowerment projects in developing countries, stop thinking about men and women as separate beings with separate roles and start thinking about treating people as equals.

Even though they make up at least half the population, women and girls have endured discrimination in most societies for thousands of years. In the past, women were treated as property of their husbands or fathers – they couldn’t own land, they couldn’t vote or go to school, and they could be beaten and abused. Over the last hundred years, much progress has been made to gain equal rights for women around the world, but many still live without the rights to which all people are entitled.

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Women’s Equality Day commemorates the certification of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution granting American women the right to vote in 1920. This occasion has been celebrated since 1973 by Presidential Proclamation after a bill introduced by Congresswoman Bella Abzug. Women’s Equality Day is an opportunity to celebrate the victories for equality that women have won, and to rededicate our commitment to eliminate discrimination against women.

The United Nations Charter was a major milestone for women’s rights because it was the first international agreement to affirm the equality between men and women. Since then, the UN has been an important advocate for the rights of women, adopting an international bill of rights for women in 1979 and sponsoring four global women’s conferences. The Millennium Development Goals, which all nations agreed to at the UN in 2000, sets tangible goals for nations to achieve by 2015, several of which deal directly with empowering women.

International Women’s Day, celebrated on March 8 is another annual rallying point to build support for the rights of women everywhere.

FINAL BREAKDOWN

At the behest of Rep. Bella Abzug (D-NY), in 1971 the U.S. Congress designated August 26 as “Women’s Equality Day.”

The date was selected to commemorate the 1920 certification of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, granting women the right to vote. This was the culmination of a massive, peaceful civil rights movement by women that had its formal beginnings in 1848 at the world’s first women’s rights convention, in Seneca Falls, New York.

The observance of Women’s Equality Day not only commemorates the passage of the 19th Amendment, but also calls attention to women’s continuing efforts toward full equality. Workplaces, libraries, organizations, and public facilities now participate with Women’s Equality Day programs, displays, video showings, or other activities.

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.

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