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It goes without saying that women are integral to every aspect of our society, from the workplace to boardrooms to political leadership. We make up 51% of U.S. citizens, 24% of U.S. Senators and 28% of the House of Representatives. Progress continues toward gender equity, too often with setbacks and stubborn barriers, but largely in the right direction over the past century. Which is why in 2022, it’s hard to imagine a time when women weren’t allowed to vote.
August 26th marks Women’s Equality Day, celebrating the constitutional right for women to vote in the United States. On this same day in 1920, following a hard fought 70-year struggle with few resources and much opposition, women persevered in securing their constitutional right to the ballot box.
Women's Equality Day commemorates the adoption of the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution. It prohibits states and the federal government from denying constituents the right to vote on the basis of sex. Three months after ratification, over eight million women showed up at the polls.
But the 19th Amendment only granted the right for white women to vote. Electoral equality for Black women as well as other groups like Native Americans, Latinx and Asian Americans wasn’t achieved until decades later thanks to suffragists of color campaigning for representation. Those suffrage groups were comprised of numerous female trailblazers from all walks of life collectively working toward the common goal of equality. The effort took fierce determination and perseverance, never accepting defeat.
Women's Equality Day is a moment to remember and celebrate the brave suffragists who helped secure the 19th amendment. They traveled the country delivering speeches, organizing events, writing newspaper articles, and going door-to-door with petitions. They were harassed and sometimes attacked. There were more obstacles than opportunities in their path, but their campaign for women’s rights ultimately prevailed.
Women’s Equality Day is also an opportunity to refocus our attention on gender equity for all women everywhere, and how we are valued in society. The 19th Amendment was a critical first step, but only one of many we’ve made since and many we still have to make.
The fight for women’s equality is far from over. We are agents for change, and there are countless issues that need to be addressed. Reproductive rights, LGBTQIA+ rights, accessible healthcare for everyone, racism and discrimination, economic inequality and gender-based violence are among the most pressing.
The best way to celebrate Women’s Equality Day is to exercise the rights women worked so hard to secure. Register to vote and learn about your voting rights and the voting process. Be a poll volunteer during the upcoming midterms, and be sure to cast your own vote.
You can also get involved with your local government and contribute to initiatives and campaign. Be an advocate for equality for everyone, everywhere.
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