Today marks Women’s Equality Day in the United States, commemorating the anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote. Former Representative Bella Abzug (D-NY) led the 1971 drive in Congress to establish the holiday, according to the National Women’s History Project.
In a Miami Herald editorial, Paula Xanthopoulou notes that the commemoration of August 26 was intended to mark the ongoing struggle for women’s rights in addition to celebrating suffrage. She writes, “The resolution accentuated the fact that women were still, fifty years later, fighting for full equality.”
The holiday was, in part, inspired by one of the largest protests for women’s equal rights in US history, the “Women’s Strike for Equality” held by the National Organization for Women on August 26, 1970, on the fiftieth anniversary of the 19th Amendment’s passage. The demonstration brought women from across the country together in multiple protests to demand equal opportunity.
Xanthopoulou added, “just because Nancy Pelosi became Speaker of the House and Hillary Clinton ran for president does not mean that sexism is dead, either. Yes, there have been many great individual achievements by women, duly noted and celebrated. But we ignore some very basic and appalling facts: The United States is tied with Turkmenistan at 68th in the world for electing women to parliaments, assemblies and congresses. Women hold about 17 percent of seats in the U.S. Congress 233 years after the country’s independence.”
Luis R. Burgos Jr., First Deputy Commissioner of the New York Division of Human Rights, commented on the successes of the women’s rights movement and its continuing challenges in a Huffington Post editorial today. “While it seems like ancient history – the amendment became law in 1920 – we still have a long way to go. Gender discrimination still exists, most notably in the work place. Women are paid 78 cents on average for every dollar earned by men…working families lose $200 billion in annual income nationwide due to the gender gap,” he writes.
The 19th amendment was passed by Congress in 1919 and achieved state ratification on August 18, 1920. The ratification was certified by Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby 89 years ago today on August 26, 1920.