Women's Equality Day
With the Presidential election right around the corner, it is important for Americans to exercise their Constitutional right to vote. Throughout American history there have been several struggles to gain equal voting rights. Each year America celebrates Women's Equality Day to commemorate the certification of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution on August 26, 1920, granting women the right to vote after nearly 100 years of struggle. This Amendment, also referred to as the Susan B. Anthony Amendment, states, “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.” Women's Equality Day was established by Congress in 1971 to honor women's continuing efforts toward equal rights, and every year since, the President has issued a proclamation naming August 26 as Women's Equality Day.
The struggle to gain women's suffrage began early in U.S. history. In 1848, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott organized the first women's rights convention in Seneca Falls, New York, effectively launching the movement upon agreement by the attendees that women were deserving of their own political identities. By 1870, there were two notable suffragist organizations, the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA), and the American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA).
In 1871, a petition was sent to Congress requesting the prohibition against voting by women to be lifted. The document was signed by Anthony, Stanton, and other suffragists. Anthony was later arrested for registering and voting in the 1872 election in Rochester, New York, and was fined $100, which she swore would never be paid. Instead, she petitioned Congress on January 12, 1874, requesting the fine be withdrawn and stating Anthony's belief that her conviction was unjust. Aggressive suffragists used tactics such as parades, silent vigils, and hunger strikes, but were often met with fierce resistance by opponents who heckled, jailed, and sometimes physically abused them.
Wealthy white women were not the only early leaders in support of suffrage rights. Other proponents included prominent African American women such as Mary Church Terrell, the first president of the National Association of Colored Women (NACW), and Ida B. Wells-Barnett, famous for leading a crusade against lynching. Frederick Douglass, a former slave and leader of the abolition movement, was also an advocate. With a growing amount of support, the suffragists came together for a common goal in 1916: seeking an amendment to the Constitution.
Though there was still strong opposition to the idea of women having the right to vote, the House of Representatives passed the 19th Amendment by a vote of 304 to 90, while the Senate approved it 56 to 25. Illinois, Wisconsin, and Michigan were the first states to ratify it. Tennessee appeared to have ratified the Amendment on August 18, 1920, because of a change in vote from “Nay” to “Yay” by Harry Burn, thought to be due to the insistence of his mother. The ratification was not official, however, as those against the Amendment managed to delay by fleeing the state to avoid a quorum and holding massive rallies in an attempt to discourage passage. This was all for naught, as Tennessee's critical 36th vote on the ratification was reaffirmed, and the 19th Amendment would, from that point on, guarantee women the right to vote.
Learn more about women's issues in society today:
- Watch the film The Third One, directed by Rahraw Omarzad, screened at the Museum of Art and Archeology through August 12. This film sensitively explores, through art, one of the principle debates for and about Muslim women: the wearing of the burqa, the outer garment that covers the whole face and body. Using the realm of video, the artist considers issues related to body, gender, religion, and society through this thoughtful film. Located on the campus of the University of Missouri - Columbia, 1 Pickard Hall, Columbia, Missouri 65211, (573) 882-3591; for hours, visit the MAA website.
- Attend an event sponsored by the Missouri Women's Council, an organization created within the Missouri Department of Economic Development and working to promote the economic success of Missouri women by connecting them to information and resources.
- The American Association of University Women of the State of Missouri (AAUW) provides information on women's rights, activities, and branches throughout the state, as well as research and advocacy news.
- Join the Women's Network of the Columbia Chamber of Commerce to connect, empower, and engage other women through leadership development, educational opportunities, and innovative outreach.
- The Susan B. Anthony Center for Women's Leadership at the University of Rochester, inspired by Anthony's vision and passion, celebrates women's achievements while working to understand and overcome barriers to women's wider leadership.
Enjoy events geared toward women:
- Sho-Me Women in the Outdoors will hold an outdoor skills workshop on August 4, from 7:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., designed to introduce women to new outdoor activities in a friendly, laid-back, non-competitive environment. Classes offered include archery, backpacking and hiking, canoeing and kayaking, deer hunting, first aid/wilderness medicine, fly tying, growing native plants, handgun fundamentals, outdoor cooking, outdoor photography, self-defense, hunting, and more. Register with a friend and take an additional $5 discount off the registration fee. To be held at the Andy Dalton Range and Training Center, 4897 North Farm Road 61, Bois D’Arc, Missouri 65612, (417) 818-8619, email@example.com.
- Join Discover Nature-Women for a women-only day-long canoe trip down the Meramec River on August 8, from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., to learn about aquatic ecosystems, flooding and erosion events, how wildlife survive in a changing river, how to protect aquatic habitats for wildlife, and Missouri's drinking water. All reservations and deposits will be accepted at the August A. Busch Memorial Conservation Area, 2360 Highway D, St. Charles, Missouri 63304, (636) 441-4554.
- Attend the Attire to INSPIRE Women's Professional Networking Affair to be held on August 2, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Enjoy music, hors d'oeuvres, cocktails, social networking, and shopping at Rung Boutique, 9739 Manchester Road, St. Louis, Missouri 63119, (314) 918-0575, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Find out more about women's suffrage and other important issues from women's history in America:
- The Archive Research Catalog of the National Archives provides information on famous and notable individuals and records and images of important events though time.
- The History Channel details the struggle for women's suffrage, along with stories on Stanton, Anthony, and other pioneering women in America.