How to Honor Women’s Equality Day

Women’s Equality Day is August 26th and President Mary Mackey shares how you can help raise awareness for gender parity and women’s rights.

 

The Herstory of Women’s Equality Day

.In July 1848, some 240 women and men gathered in upstate New York for a meeting “to discuss the social, civil, and religious condition and rights of women.” One hundred of the delegates–68 women and 32 men–signed a Declaration of Sentiments, modeled on the Declaration of Independence, declaring that women, like men, were citizens with an “inalienable right to the elective franchise.” The Seneca Falls Convention marked the official beginning of the campaign for women’s suffrage.

It would be 72 years before they would see the results of their assembly.

In 1913, Alice Paul and Lucy Burns organized the Congressional Union, renamed in 1916 as the National Women’s Party (NWP). They followed strategies from England’s radical Women’s Social and Political Union (WPSU), which did not set well with the National American Women’s Suffrage Association (NAWSA), formed in 1869 by Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

By the way, I highly recommend watching or re-watching Iron Jawed Angels to commemorate Women’s Equality Day. You can watch in on YouTube or order a copy from Amazon. The movie follows the suffrage movement through the tribulations of Alice Paul and Lucy Burns.

On March 3, 1913, the WPSU planned and hosted a Suffragist Parade in Washington, DC. It was the day before Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration. The event unfortunately ended in police violence and several arrests. 

Over the next six years, the WPSU/NWP would picket the White House holding banners with phrases such as, “Mr. President, What Will You Do For Woman Suffrage?” and “How Long Must Women Wait for Liberty?” Their peaceful protests were met with outrage from the politicians that passed through the gates and the public that passed by on the sidewalk and road. The women were spit upon, shoved, and antagonized to the point of police being called to assure their safety. Rather than protecting the peaceful protesters, the police arrested them for obstruction of the sidewalk.

The federal women’s suffrage amendment, originally written by Susan B. Anthony and introduced in Congress in 1878, was re-introduced on January 15, 1915 and brought to a vote in the House of Representatives; it failed by a vote of 204 to 174.

In November 1917, Alice Paul and thirty-two other picketers were arrested; they were charged with and subsequently convicted of “obstructing traffic”. The suffragists were held without bail and incarcerated at the Occoquan Workhouse in Virginia. While in prison, Ms. Paul began a hunger strike to help gain attention to their plight. She was placed in solitary confinement, tied down, and force fed.

In January 1918, bad press about the treatment of the women, especially of Ms. Paul, forced President Wilson to proclaim women’s suffrage was urgently needed as a “war measure” and the women were released. On January 10, the suffrage bill was again presented, this time fully endorsed by President Wilson. It narrowly passed the House, but failed in the Senate.

On June 4, 1919, the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote was finally passed by both houses of Congress and sent to the States for ratification. Texas ratified the Amendment on June 28th. Coincidentally, or maybe not, Texas Business Women, Inc.’s predecessor, the Texas Federation of Business and Professional Women was organized on June 12, 1919.

On August 18, 1920, Tennessee became the necessary 36th ratification vote.

The 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was certified by both houses of Congress on August 26, 1920. The Amendment reads, “The rights of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”

 

Proclamation

Congresswoman Bella Abzug (D-New York) introduced a bill that passed in 1971 to designate August 26th as Women’s Equality Day (originally called Women’s Rights Day) to commemorate the granting of the vote to women throughout the country. Every U.S. President since 1972 has issued a Proclamation for Women’s Equality Day.

The 1972 Proclamation issued by President Richard Nixon reads, in part: “Although every woman may not desire a career outside the home, every woman should have the freedom to pursue whatever career she wishes. Although women today have a greater opportunity to do that, we still must do more to ensure women every opportunity to make the fullest contribution to our progress as a Nation.” This is still true 45 years later.

 

How You Can Get Involved

I sent an email to the McKinney mayor and requested a Proclamation to honor Women’s Equality Day. It was signed and returned to me via email the very next day. I challenge every local organization (LO) to reach out to their local government officials to request a proclamation be issued or a copy of one already issued. The National Women’s History Program has provided a sample proclamation that can be used by anybody. Please forward a copy to me, president@tbwconnect.com, so we can share it.

Please also join our TBW Facebook Event and invite your friends to join. Discuss ideas and share your thoughts about gender parity and women’s rights.