National Women’s Equality Day

National Women’s Equality Day was established by Congress in 1971. Created to honor women gaining the right to vote (the 19th Amendment), as well as the work we continue to do to gain equality in all parts of life, National Women’s Equality Day is important! Learn more about it here.

Women's suffrage movement

August 26th is National Women’s Equality Day. While you might not be familiar with this holiday, you should learn about it! Sure, it’s 2011 and women have equal rights, but it wasn’t all that long ago that we couldn’t even vote. Plus, equal rights don’t always mean equal treatment.

History of National Women’s Equality Day

Woman holding suffrage sign

On August 26, 1920, U.S. Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby signed the 19th Amendment into law. It was a narrow victory — the 19th Amendment was secured by the state of Tennessee by just one vote, courtesy of Harry Burn (whose vote was a result of his mother’s advice).

Exactly 50 years later, Betty Friedan and the National Organization for Women organized a strike for women’s equality. According to the National Women’s History Museum, more than 100,000 women from across the country participated in demonstrations and rallies all over the United States. In fact, there were events in more than 90 U.S. cities and towns.

Women demonstrated for equal opportunity in employment and education, as well as 24-hour daycares. Women hung two 40-foot banners from the Statue of Liberty: “March on August 26 for Equality” and “Women of the World Unite.” The events across the country, and particularly in New York City, received wide press coverage. The New York Times covered the activities and ran its first piece on the feminist movement.

In 1971, Congress designated August 26 National Women’s Equality Day after passing a bill introduced by U.S. Rep. Bella Abzug.

Why it matters

Equal Right's Ammendment

So why are we talking about women’s equality in 2011, 91 years after we officially won the right to vote? While gaining the right to vote was a huge victory, the fact is that women aren’t always treated equally. One place where unequal treatment is often noticeable is the workplace.

Fortunately, we have the option of working inside or outside the home (although finances often guide that choice — Equal Rights Advocates notes that 70 percent of women who work outside the home do so out of economic necessity). And women are a valuable and significant part of the U.S. workforce. In fact, Equal Rights Advocates points that women make up 48 percent of the workforce.

However, comprising nearly half of the workforce doesn’t mean we’re always treated fairly. The National Organization for Women (NOW) notes that for every dollar a man makes, a woman makes just 78 cents.

Furthermore, when it comes to certain positions, women’s presence is definitely lacking. For example, New York Women in Communications notes that women comprise only 15 percent of the seats on boards of Fortune 500 companies and only 17 percent of the U.S. Congress.

National Women’s Equality Day 2011

Why not recognize Women’s Equality Day this year? If you’re a staunch advocate of women’s rights, you might already have plans. Even if you’re not an activist — and many of us aren’t — that doesn’t mean we have to let the day pass without acknowledging it. We don’t need to burn our bras and march in demonstrations to support equal rights for women. Host a girl’s get-together on Women’s Equality Day this year. You can recognize the importance of this day and enjoy an evening with your favorite supportive girlfriends.

Remember — we’re valuable! Whether you work at home to raise your children or work for an outside income to support your family and/or use your talents, you deserve to be treated equally. National Women’s Equality Day is a great time to stop and recognize that.

Women’s Equality Day: The journey

A timeline of the journey to the passage of the 19th Amendment.

More on women and equality

Celebrate the 100th Anniversary of National Women’s Equality Day
A day without feminism: A look back at 1970

Photo: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division


Comments are closed.