WHAT IS NATIONAL WOMEN'S EQUALITY DAY?

National Women’s Equality Day was enacted by Congress in 1973 to commemorate the 1920 adoption of the Nineteenth Amendment which prohibits the state and federal governments from denying the right to vote to citizens of the United States on the basis of sex.

On August 16, 1973, Congress approved H.J. Res. 52, which stated that August 26 would be designated as Women's Equality Day and that "the President is authorized and requested to issue a proclamation in commemoration of that day in 1920 on which the women in America were first guaranteed the right to vote.”

The same day, President Nixon issued Proclamation 4236 for Women's Equality Day, which began, "The struggle for women's suffrage, however, was only the first step toward full and equal participation of women in our Nation's life. In recent years, we have made other giant strides by attacking sex discrimination through our laws and by paving new avenues to equal economic opportunity for women. Today, in virtually every sector of our society, women are making important contributions to the quality of American life. And yet, much still remains to be done."

On the anniversary of the proclamation in 2016, Former U.S. President Obama's Proclamation stated, "Today, as we celebrate the anniversary of this hard-won achievement and pay tribute to the trailblazers and suffragists who moved us closer to a more just and prosperous future, we resolve to protect this constitutional right and pledge to continue fighting for equality for women and girls."

HISTORY OF THE 19TH AMENDMENT

Passed in 1919 and ratified in 1920, this 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…Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”

Generations of women lectured, marched, lobbied, and protested for the opportunity to vote. It all started when Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott held the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848. The meeting was a call for greater women’s rights, and all the resolutions easily passed except for the right to vote. Many of the attendees of the convention felt that it was too radical and would label the movement as ridiculous.

At the time, no country had universal women’s suffrage. One of the reasons for denying women the right to vote was the belief that the mental exertion needed would cause women to become infertile. The suffrage supporters were often met with fierce opposition, and it took persistence and a change in societal beliefs altogether before the right to vote became a more viable consideration. The most significant factor toward this change was the emergence of women in the workforce. Even following the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920, many women were still unable to vote long into the 20th century due to discriminatory state voting laws.

REGISTER TO VOTE

Celebrate Women’s Equality Day by checking your local voting status or by registering to vote at vote.gov.

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