August 26 is Women’s Equality Day, a holiday to celebrate the anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, granting women the right to vote. Although women’s suffrage ended in 1920 in the US with the signing of the Amendment, the holiday was not celebrated until 1971 amidst a nationwide women’s strike for equality.
The holiday has been proudly celebrated by every administration, though it was called “Women’s Rights Day” for its first two years is officially celebrated. Marches and events are held all around the country encouraging women to continue in the fight for equality and social equity. The right to vote was just a step in a long climb, as women are still greatly outnumbered in American politics and continue to face wage gaps in almost every industry.
Women’s Equality Day celebrates inspirational women and encourages the next generations to follow in their footsteps.
Why August 26?
The women’s suffrage movement was a nearly century-long battle in the United States for women to have the right to vote, which is being represented in the democratic process, the very thing the country declared its independence from Britain for. Women literally died for this right.
It wasn’t until the Seneca Falls Convention of 1948 that the movement really started to be nationally recognized. Even still, it would be 70 years until the ratification of the Amendment, making it a national right.
The Amendment was ratified on August 18 and officially placed into law on August 26, which is why the date was chosen for the holiday.
Find out how women struggled for the right to vote in Canada
Equality vs. equity
Racism continues to be a very prominent issue in American society, as the BLM movement has shown so clearly. But African American males were still able to vote 50 years before any females, which was granted by the 15th Amendment in 1870.
With that, men have had quite a head start in the United States. Although the 19th Amendment gives women equality, the goal moving forward is equity which is needed to help even out the centuries of oppression, which are responsible for things like wage gaps and unbalanced representation in elected offices.
This is why celebrations of the holiday today look to further empower women to achieve their goals and find themselves in positions of authority and power that have been historically held by men. There is still a lot of work to do, but to use The United States House of Representatives as an example, here is the gender makeup from 12 years ago, compared to now:
- 2008 – 72 of 435 members of the U.S. House of Representatives were women
- 2020 – 120 of 435 members of the U.S. House of Representatives were women
There are many other measurable instances of female misrepresentation, but the advancement in politics is a good thing to celebrate because 100 years ago, women just earned the right to vote, and today, they are getting voted for more than ever.
Equality – A win-win!
In addition to subjective moral discussions about equality, there are objective statistics that show that empowering women in the workplace and having a culture that preaches diversity and inclusion results in a higher bottom line for companies, and better employee retention rates and employee satisfaction.
There is really no reason NOT to celebrate this holiday!