Women’s Equality Day, August 26, is a holiday first proposed by Rep. Bella Abzug, to honor the anniversary of the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, which women finally gained our hard-earned right to vote. At WVFC, we take the struggle for that day seriously; see Patricia Allen Yarberry’s valentine to those Iron-Jawed Angels (published about a year ago). See below a bit of HBO’s tribute to their strength:

Below, we offer two very different commentaries for the day: first, a celebratory valediction from a rising Army leader, and then a reminder from 9 to 5 that we’re not quite out of the placard stage yet.

Col. Deborah Grays: Women’s Equality Day a reminder to celebrate diversity

In 1971, the U.S. Congress declared the 26th of August, “Women’s Equality Day.” Aug. 26 is the anniversary of the 1920 passage of the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which provides that, “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.” President Bill Clinton, in his 1994 Women’s Equality Day proclamation, described the ratification of this amendment as, “… an important step toward ensuring that the civil and political rights guaranteed by the Constitution would truly be the equal rights of all Americans.” He described the purpose of Women’s Equality Day as twofold: first, it would commemorate the passage of the 19th Amendment and the achievements and contributions of women in the United States. Second, it would serve as a reminder for Americans to recommit themselves to promoting equality.

Monument at the Capitol to the pioneers of women's suffrage.

The 19th Amendment to the Constitution marked the culmination of a massive, peaceful civil-rights movement that began at the world’s first women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls,N.Y. On July 13, 1848, five women met for tea in upstate New York, and after discussing the role of women in American society, decided to send off a notice to the local newspaper announcing a convention to discuss the social, civil, and religious conditions and rights of women. Convention participants drafted the Declaration of Sentiments, which began, “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal.” Within this declaration, the call for universal women’s suffrage rang the loudest. After a 72-year struggle, the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified on Aug. 26, 1920, ending gender-based denial of voting rights in the United States.

On March 8th, President Obama remarked in his International Women’s Day statement that as Americans, we are “filled with great hope that our daughters, and the daughters of all nations, will continue to serve as leaders in the pursuit of our collective well-being and have the opportunity to achieve their full potential.”

As we observe Women’s Equality Day, I encourage all members of our community to appreciate the role women play in advancing the ideals of our Constitution and to recognize that in many parts of the world, full equality for women is only a dream. Women’s Equality Day celebrates how far we have come as a society, as well as the many contributions women are making today. These accomplishments are a tribute to the diversity of American society and to our continuing commitment to equality for all Americans.

Col. Deborah B. Grays is the Garrison Commander for Fort McPherson & Fort Gillem, Ga. The above was taken from her ‘Commander’s Corner’ column.

Linda Meric | On Women’s Equality Day: Are we there yet?

Each year, on Aug. 26, we celebrate Women’s Equality Day to pay tribute to those brave suffragists, like Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Alice Paul and Ida B. Wells Barnett, who led the struggle for American women to win the most critical tool of democracy – the right to vote. Women today not only have the right to vote, but we’ve made significant advances in the world of work, in education, in business, and in many other arenas. Still, Women’s Equality Day 2009 offers the chance for a temperature check. Are we there yet? How close have we come to full equality? And what steps can we take now to come closer? Women in the U.S. still earn only 78 cents for every dollar earned by men. African-American women and Latinas experience an even bigger pay gap. The pay gap persists despite occupation, despite personal choices, despite income, and despite education. In fact, women earn less than their male colleagues just one year out of college, even when the work is exactly the same. And the gap widens after that. At the rate we’re going, women will have to wait until the year 2050 to reach pay equity. But we can’t afford to wait that long. We need stronger fair pay laws and vigorous enforcement to end pay discrimination. We need to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act now. We must also address workplace policy that ignores women’s dual responsibilities – work and family. Consider this: The U.S. is one of only four countries in the world that does not guarantee paid time off for new parents. The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides up to 12 weeks leave for major illness and the birth or adoption of a child. But not everyone is covered and the leave is unpaid. To move toward equality, we must expand family and medical leave now and make it more affordable, for more workers. Additionally, we must provide legislative relief for the nearly 60 million workers who lack paid sick days. Three cities – San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and Milwaukee – have passed ordinances that allow workers to keep their jobs and incomes while caring for themselves or a loved one in times of occasional illness. But now is the time for Congress to take federal action. The late Sen. Ted Kennedy and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, with 100House co-sponsors, re-introduced the Healthy Families Act (HFA) in Congress: The proposal would allow workers to earn up to seven paid sick days each year.  Paid sick days protect the public health, provide a safety net for workers in a tough economy, and are good for business. Studies show that businesses that offer their workers paid sick days have less turnover, higher worker morale, and higher productivity. Providing workplace pay equality and sick days for all workers will not be easy victories, but it is attainable. We must all speak out. Tell your story. If we are ever to see a full vision of women’s equality, we must honor the legacy of those brave women who went before us. Linda Meric is executive director of 9 to 5, the National Association of Working Women.

Join the conversation

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  • Kathleen Rawlings August 25, 2009 at 3:15 pm

    We are not there and will not be there unless we band together and MAKE ourselves there. 89 years since we got the vote and how have we proven ourselves. Only 20% to 30% of registered voters actually go to the polls on election day. Think what we as women could do if we ALL went out to vote female! But make sure you are voting for strong, intelligent females. We are not all created equal in that respect.