The USA's Women's Equality Day provides an important platform for change

One of the most important achievements in the fight for equality has been women winning the right to vote. While many further achievements have been gained, there is still much work to do.

Annually on August 26, widescale attention on women's equality is marked across the United States of America. The day is known as Women's Equality Day.

USA women's equality day

Image credit: Christina at WOCinTech

The fight for gender equality

August 2020 is a significant month as it marks the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment that guarantees and protects women's constitutional right to vote.

2020 is also the centenary year of the transformation of the National Woman Suffrage Association into the League of Women Voters.

In August 1920, the U.S. Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby officially certified the 19th Amendment that gave women the right to vote.

This was a victory in the fight for gender equality after many decades of campaigning from women's civil rights movements

The Amendment reads: “The right 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.” 

While several countries such as Finland, New Zealand, Denmark, Iceland, Russia, Germany and the United Kingdom had legalized voting for women by the early 1900s, the 19th Amendment failed to pass through when it was first introduced in 1878.

Following American women's contributions throughout during World War I, activists made it clear that it was unfair to expect them to fight for democracy in Europe when they were being denied a basic right back home.

Alongside protests, strikes and further campaigning efforts, support was garnered to approve the Amendment.

Women of color still faced barriers to voting

The amendment, however, did not actually guarantee all women in America the right to vote. Although the Amendment eased obstacles some women faced at the ballot box, women of color still faced legal barriers. 

Black women continued to raise concerns about their unequal access to the franchise in the years after the 19th Amendment was ratified.

"For Black women, our right to vote is only secured with the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965," says Valethia Watkins, an associate professor of Africana studies at Howard University. "Black women have only had the legal protected vote for half the time of some other women."

Susan B. Anthony, a social reformer for women's suffrage

Susan B Anthony

One pioneering social reformer of the era was Susan B. Anthony, who played a pivotal role in gaining women the right to vote.

Alongside fellow campaigner Elizabeth Cady Stanton, she founded the Women's Loyal National League for the abolition of slavery; the America Equal Rights Association for equal rights for both women and Black people; and the National Woman Suffrage Association.

She worked on many state campaigns for women's suffrage, travelling across the country to deliver speeches. Initially ridiculed for her efforts, she persevered.

Her 80th birthday was celebrated in the White House and she was the first woman to be depicted on U.S. coinage.

Significant political and voting power of women of color

Black women have only more recently begun to receive credit and mainstream attention for their significant political and voting power.

Their work within the suffrage movement and the broader fight for Black voting rights has often gone unrecognized. While history recalls contributions of women suffragists like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, the efforts of Black women like Mary Church Terrell, the first president of the pro-suffrage National Association of Colored Women, or writer and suffragist Adella Hunt Logan of the Black Tuskegee Women's Club received less attention.

The work of other figures like Ida B. Wells-Barnett and abolitionist Harriet Tubman is increasingly recognized for earning more attention for helping secure the vote for Black women.

Marking Women's Equality Day

The gender pay gap still persists in the United States, and women are still considerably under-represented in certain industries such as STEM - especially women of color.

Beyond the workplace, women still do more of the domestic work and childcare alongside forging their own career.

There are also far fewer women in leadership positions - especially regarding women of color - with men still making the majority of decisions impacting women.

There have been leaps of progress, however Women's Equality Day continues to highlight many institutional, societal and cultural changes that still need to be addressed to achieve gender parity.

Continuing the fight the good fight

women's equality day vote

Image credit: Lindsey LaMont

In every country of the world, women still aren't done with fighting for equal rights.

The focus continues on honoring the struggles of the past, celebrating the gains of the present, and forging continued action for a better future.


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