Celebrate Equality Day

Celebrate Equality Day – August 26th!

August 26th is the anniversary of national woman suffrage.  Across the seventy-two years between the first major women’s rights conference at Seneca Falls, New York, in 1848, and the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, thousands of people participated in marches through cities like New York and Washington DC, wrote editorials and pamphlets, gave speeches all over the nation, lobbied political organizations, and held demonstrations with the goal of achieving voting rights for women.  Women also picketed the White House with questions like, “Mr. President, what are you going to do about woman’s suffrage?” “Mr. President, how long must women wait for liberty?”  This was the first time in history that a group of people picketed the White House.

The woman suffrage amendment was introduced for the first time to the United States Congress on January 10, 1878.  It was re-submitted numerous times until finally in June 1919 the amendment received approval from both the House of Representatives and the Senate.  Over the following year the suffragists spent their time lobbying states in order to have the amendment ratified by the required two-thirds of the states.  On August 24th, Tennessee, the final state needed for ratification, narrowly signed the approval by one vote.  The vote belonged to Harry Burn, who heeded the words of his mother when she urged him to vote yes on suffrage.  The U.S. Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby signed the amendment into law on August 26, 1920.

Fifty years later on August 26th, 1970, Betty Friedan and the National Organization For Women (NOW) organized a nationwide Women’s Strike for Equality.  Women across the political spectrum joined together to demand equal opportunities in employment, education, and twenty-four hour child-care centers.  This was the largest protest for gender equality in U.S. history.  There were demonstrations and rallies in more than ninety major cities and small towns across the country and over 100,000 women participated, including 50,000 who marched down Fifth Avenue in New York City.

Several other acts occurred on that day to help the cause and prompt more press coverage on the women’s movement.  For example, women in New York City took over the Statue of Liberty.  In preparation, several women climbed up to measure the wind velocity.  Later they returned to the Statue with two forty-foot banners to hang from the crown.  One read: “March on August 26 for Equality.” The other: “Women of the World Unite.”  An organized group stopped the ticker tape at the American Stock Exchange, and they held signs with slogans like, “We won’t bear any more bull.”  Another action taken during the day was a lawsuit filed against the New York City Board of Education to gain equality for women in educational administration. The case lasted about ten years and finally resulted in a larger increase in female principals.

While the strike did not halt the activities of the nation, it drew national attention to the women’s rights movement.  For example, The New York Times published their first major article on the feminist movement by covering the events of the day.  It even included a map of the route the marchers took through New York City.

The following year in 1971, Representative Bella Abzug (D-NY) introduced a bill designating August 26th of each year as Women’s Equality Day and the bill passed.  Part of the bill reads that Women’s Equality Day is a symbol of women’s continued fight for equal rights and that the United States commends and supports them.  It decreed that the President is authorized and requested to issue a proclamation annually in commemoration of woman suffrage and the 1970 Strike for Equality. Women today continue to draw on the history of these brave and determined women.

Find Equality Day resources on the National Women’s History Project’s Web site

Read the Presidential Equality Day Proclamation for the past 12 years:

2012

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999

1998

1997

1996

1995

1994

10 Responses to “Celebrate Equality Day”

  1. [...] stereotypical ways for women to “enjoy” time with one another. Perhaps some have forgotten about National Women’s Equality Day, which has been held on the same day every year for the last 92 years. Yes, 92 years of celebrating [...]

  2. [...] a lot to celebrate on this side of the Atlantic. Special events for Women’s Equality Day (August 26th) are scheduled throughout the U.S., and in New Mexico, in  particular with [...]

  3. [...] a lot to celebrate on this side of the Atlantic. Special events for Women’s Equality Day (August 26th) are scheduled throughout the U.S., and in New Mexico, in  particular with [...]

  4. [...] after Tennessee’s pivotal ratification of the 19th amendment.  Although it is not well known, August 26 of each year since 1971 has been proclaimed a day of commemoration by U.S. Presidents to celebrate [...]

  5. Kathleen Christensen says:

    Great article. I was in my 20′s when NOW was established. Our daughters have certaily gained by the women’s movements and have such freedom today to choose their careers, etc. I am very thankful to the women who started the suffragete movement. They had a tremendous wall to knock down.

  6. Cool Article, Thanks!

  7. Nanette Goulais-Sparke says:

    Make sure you read the book and see the documentary by Ken Burns, “Not for Ourselves Alone”. It is unbelievable and life changing. Every few years, PBS will show it but somehow they don’t show it in March for Women’s history month.

  8. Over the past 93 years since the 19th amendment, women’s progress seems to sometimes take one step forward, 2 steps back. A perfect example of that was during WWII when no effort was spared to get women out of their homes and into overalls and take over the jobs left vacant by the men who had gone off to fight the war. Performing superbly in jobs traditionally held by men, women kept Americans war programs going at top speed. But by 1945 Uncle Sam was whistling a different tune and a massive campaign was launched to get Rosie the Riveter back to her home and housewife duties. Ads that once featured women engaged in war work now featured happy homemakers. For a look at some of these vintage ads and to see how Rosie the Riveter got her pink slip
    http://envisioningtheamericandream.com/2012/10/01/rosie-the-riveter-gets-her-pink-slip/

  9. Please join the conversation on “Fantastically Feminist,” our new blog begun today in honor of Women’s Equality Day, 2013! http://fantasticallyfeminist.wordpress.com

    Jessica Kerley and Erin McGee

  10. [...] holiday, which began in 1971 at the urging of Rep. Bella Abzug, formally recognizes the passage of the 19th Amendment and women finally winning the vote. According to the joint [...]

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