August 26 marks the anniversary of women in the United States winning the right to vote. This long and courageous political movement was carried out by tens of thousands of women and men working to form a more perfect union.
Yet the significance of the woman suffrage campaign – and its enormous political and social impact – have been largely ignored in the telling of American history. It is a story that needs to be told. It is the story of women creating one of the most innovative and successful nonviolent civil rights efforts the world has ever seen. It is all the more remarkable when one considers the barriers suffragists had to overcome.
With little financial, legal or political power of their own, and facing a well-financed and entrenched opposition, women fought state by state for their rights as citizens.
To win the right to vote, women circulated countless petitions, gave speeches, published newspapers, and traveled the country to win support. They were frequently ridiculed, harassed and sometimes attacked by mobs and police. Some were thrown in jail, and then treated brutally when they protested.
Still they persevered. Finally, on August 26, 1920, their goal was achieved with the 19th Amendment. Women had won the right to vote and hold public office. The women and men of the nation had moved closer to forming a more perfect union. This important democratic idea, born in 1776, is still very much alive. Women’s Equality Day gives us an opportunity to reflect on the many benefits of true equality and the role of women in our public life. Women in public service and government have long served us as a nation by working to clear barriers, enforce laws, implement new ideas, and change people’s attitudes. That’s why we are honoring them this year.
The women we remember today, like so many other outstanding women and champions of equality, offer inspiring stories that give us a better understanding of our own place in history. They remind us that, as Americans, we all have the opportunity – and the responsibility – to overcome life’s obstacles, to give our very best effort, and to join with our fellow citizens to form a more democratic society.
At the behest of Rep. Bella Abzug (D-NY), in 1971 and passed in 1973, 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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