Women's Equality Day
Suffrage, or the right to vote, has not always been available to every American. Throughout 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, 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 Instead, she petitioned Congress on January 12, 1874, requesting the fine be withdrawn and stating Anthony's belief that her conviction was unjust.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.
Missouri lays claim to having the first documented vote by a woman in an election following the signing of the 19th Amendment. Just five days after the Amendment officially became law, on August 31, 1920, Mrs. Marie Ruoff Byrum participated in a special election to fill the seat of an alderman who had resigned in Hannibal, Missouri. Despite the pouring rain, Mrs. Byrum cast her ballot at 7 a.m., thus becoming the first woman to enjoy the privilege of suffrage in the United States under the 19th Amendment, followed closely by Mrs. Walker Harrison, who voted at 7:01 a.m. in the second ward of Hannibal.
Enjoy events geared toward women:
- Hear more about Gail of Gail's Harley-Davidson on August 13 at 6:30 p.m. at the Central Branch of the Kansas City Public Library, 14 West 10th Street, Kansas City. A Conversation with Gail of Gail's Harley-Davidson chronicles Gail's life in a male-dominated industry. Today, Gail's is the largest Harley dealership in the Midwest and one of the top in the country. This event is part of the library's Cradle of Entrepreneurs series, with a new emphasis on Kansas City women business owners and founders. For more information, call 816-701-3400.
- The Women's Network of the Columbia Chamber of Commerce and the Columbia Career Center present Communicating Through Conflict as part of the monthly luncheon series on August 15 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Cost for lunch is $18 for members and $21 for guests; register online or contact Elizabeth Tate at 573-874-1132 or firstname.lastname@example.org and save $3 per person. The Women's Network strives to connect, empower and engage members through leadership development, educational opportunities, and innovative outreach.
- Listen on Saturdays from 3 to 4 p.m. to Every Woman, a weekly radio show on KKFI Community Radio at 90.1 FM, produced and hosted by Sharon Lockhart. The program highlights the challenges women and their families face in their lives and is an outlet to encourage action to change and improve women’s lives. For more information, call 816-931-3122.
- Discuss women's political issues with members of the Greater Kansas City Women's Political Caucus on August 20 from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. at Boozefish Wine Bar, 1511 Westport Road, Kansas City. Happy Hour attendees include Kansas City Council women Cindy Circo, Melba Curls, and Jan Marcason. For more information, call 816-517-8196 or e-mail email@example.com.
- Join Discover Nature-Women for their Shooting Sports Sampler on August 17 from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. to learn how to handle and shoot rifles, handguns, and archery. Participants may use the provided equipment or bring owned guns. Space is limited at the free event, so register early by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 417-742-4361. This women’s event will take place at Andy Dalton Shooting Range and Outdoor Education Center, 4897 North Farm Road 61, Ash Grove.
- Join the American Association of University Women of Missouri, with the mission of advancing equity for women and girls through advocacy, education, philanthropy, and research, and make plans to attend their 26th Annual Equality Day Brunch on August 24 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, 7750 Carondelet Avenue, Clayton. For more information, call 314-831-5359, or contact Patricia Shores at 636-938-3958 or email@example.com. The registration deadline is August 17.
- Play golf with The Women's Foundation of Greater Kansas City on August 26 at Oakwood Country Club, 9800 Grandview Road, Kansas City, as part of the WFGKC Golf Classic. Registration begins at 10 a.m., followed by lunch at 11 a.m., and a noon shotgun start for participants. The WFGKC brings together money, ideas, and action to create a lasting change for women and girls, their families, and our community. For more information, contact Patt Papenfuhs at firstname.lastname@example.org or 913-831-0711, ext. 23.
- Hear about Frances Perkins, the first female Secretary of Labor, from biographer Kirstin Downey, on August 28 at 6:30 p.m. at the Plaza Branch of the Kansas City Public Library, 4801 Main Street, Kansas City. The Woman Behind the New Deal: Frances Perkins highlights Perkins' implementation of programs that reshaped society and business under President Roosevelt. For more information, call 816-701-3400.
- Participate in the Missouri chapters of the National Organization for Women's virtual social media event “Rise Up! Shoulder-to-Shoulder for the Equal Rights Amendment” on August 30. The event will encompass a bipartisan outreach campaign to encourage legislators who have yet to co-sponsor the resolutions to remove the Equal Rights Amendment ratification deadline. In addition, participants will be promoting Senate and House resolutions to award Dr. Alice Paul, author of the original ERA and prominent supporter of women's suffrage, the Gold Medal of Honor. You can also pre-register for the Missouri NOW State Conference, to be held on September 21 from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Columbia.
- Pre-register for “The Competitive Advantage for Women” to be held on September 5 from 1 to 5 p.m. on the University of Missouri-Kansas City campus at the Student Union, 5100 Cherry Street, Kansas City, on the fourth floor. This workshop, sponsored by the Missouri Women's Council and UMKC Women's Council, will help participants identify personal attributes that provide a competitive advantage in seizing future opportunities. The free event also includes a book signing by the author of Sun Tzu for Women, Becky Sheetz-Runkle. For more information or to register, visit http://suntzuforwomen.eventbrite.com/, call 877-426-9284, or e-mail at email@example.com.
- RSVP early for Roe v. Wade: The Abortion Rights Controversy in American History at the Central Branch of the Kansas City Public Library, 14 West 10th Street, Kansas City, to be held on September 19 at 6:30 p.m. Few Supreme Court decisions have stirred up as much controversy, vitriolic debate, and even violence as the one delivered in Roe v. Wade in 1973. Peter Charles Hoffer examines the lasting impact of this landmark decision in his book Roe v. Wade: The Abortion Rights Controversy in American History, which was co-authored with N.E.H. Hull. Hoffer is a distinguished research professor of history at the University of Georgia. The event is part of the Legal Landmarks series, co-presented by the Library. For more information, call 816-701-3400.
- Make plans to attend Lady at the O.K. Corral: The True Story of Josephine Marcus Earp, to be held on September 24 at 6:30 p.m. at the Central Branch of the Kansas City Public Library, 14 West 10th Street, Kansas City. Dr. Ann Kirschner shares Earp's story, bringing the wife of Wyatt Earp out of the shadows of history to tell her tale: a spirited and colorful story of ambition, adventure, self-invention, and devotion. For more information, call 816-701-3400.
- Visit the Bonniebrook Gallery, Museum, and Homestead at 485 Rose O'Neill Road, Walnut Shade, Missouri, to learn more about Rose O'Neill, an illustrator and cartoonist, artist, author, activist, and creator of the Kewpie dolls, popular in the early 1900's. O'Neill was frequently in attendance at suffrage parades and often found that her artistic fame came in handy in drawing attention to the unfair treatment of women and minorities. For more information, call 417-561-1509 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
- Join the Business Women of Missouri (BWM), whose mission is to achieve equity for women in the workplace through advocacy, education, and information. BWM's 2013 Leadership Conference will be held August 2-3 at the Best Western State Fair Inn, 3120 South Limit, Sedalia. For more information, e-mail Dianne Simon at email@example.com.
Find out more about important events from women's history and issues important to women today:
- Celebrate women's achievements at The Susan B. Anthony Center for Women's Leadership at the University of Rochester. For more information, 585-275-8799 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- 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.