Women’s Equality Day– History & the 21st Century

The American Revolution was won not only with the effort and treasure of honorable men, but also of honorable hard working women. To avoid silk and linen acquisition from England, women wove their own cloth for their families and many women disguised themselves as men and fought in the war against England. Nevertheless, when the United States Constitution was adopted in 1789, it did not include women.

Women’s Equality Day is Tuesday, August 26th and commemorates a hot day in August 1920 when women officially gained the right to vote – this right and the movement to gain voting rights for women was referred to as “women’s suffrage.” The struggle for equal treatment of women has been a difficult and painful road paved with the bravery of those who dared to test the boundaries of human dignity and request equality for women. Women’s Equality Day in the United States marks a turning point for all women and has had global effects.

It was during World War I, which important to note required full cooperation from women in the United States, when the suffragists submitted the amendment to the House of Representatives in 1917. By 1920, despite the popular opinion of the day by many educated and elite that women were inferior and not fit for serious employment, a mighty step took place when the amendment was signed into law.

Before World War I, several countries had given women the vote: New Zealand in 1893; Finland in 1906; Norway in 1907; Australia in 1908; and Denmark and Iceland in 1915. The war caused many nations to give women the vote. Russia did so in 1917. Canada, Germany, Luxembourg, and Poland followed in 1918. India, Austria, Czechoslovakia, and The Netherlands did so in 1919. Great Britain granted complete woman suffrage in 1928. Late-comers to the suffrage movement were Brazil, Cuba, Chile and the Philippines in the 1930’s. It was World War II that sped up the acceptance of woman suffrage in France, Italy, China, Japan, and others. 1963 marked the first time women voted in Iran.

In 1971 a bill passed designating August 26th of each year as Women’s Equality Day. Women’s Equality Day brings our attention to women’s continued fight for equal rights and the backing of the United States on this front. The President is authorized and requested to issue a proclamation annually in commemoration of woman suffrage and the 1970 Strike for Equality.
Over the last 100 years, great women have proven the capability and leadership of women. Examples of these range from Rosa Parks and Eleanor Roosevelt fighting for civil rights and equality to great scientists such as Marie Curie and Jane Goodall to Sally Ride, American physicist, astronaut and the first American woman in space.

Although the strides women have made since 1920 are impressive, women’s equality has grown to mean much more than sharing the right to vote. The equality for women must extend to equal responsibility, equal pay whatever one’s gender and not just in the United States. We live and work in a global economic and political world where personal and professional lives overlap. Women of the United States can share their ideals and the story of a successful struggle for equality. Still within the United States and in every society there is more work to be done to insure the equality of women’s rights and push back against suppression, violence, discrimination and stereotyping.

On Women’s Equality Day, think about supporting women’s empowerment projects in the United States and in developing countries. Equality for women will ensure success for family (women, men and children), business, and nation – all come out as winners! Today we honor those who fought tirelessly for a woman’s right to vote, but we know that there is much more work to do. Let us keep marching forward together.