Women’s Equality Day is celebrated annually on August 26th to acknowledge the hurdles faced by American women and to honor those who have sacrificed in order to propel the women’s rights movement forward.
In the early 19th century, state laws prohibited women from owning property, serving on juries, signing contracts, and voting in elections. The 19th Amendment to the Constitution was first introduced in January of 1878, but was not approved by the Senate and House of Representatives for forty-two long years. Thereafter, it took another year for the Amendment to be ratified by two-thirds of the states. The Amendment was finally signed into law on August 26, 1920. On this day, more than 26 million American women had their citizenship affirmed and gained a critical tool to empower themselves. This Amendment ushered in a new voting population with a political agenda aimed at addressing concerns specific to women, drastically reshaping political discourse in our country. After women were ensured the right to vote, suddenly political candidates were motivated to be attentive to women’s needs and to advocate for laws that addressed the concerns of a previously ignored portion of the American population.
The 19th Amendment undoubtedly operated as a huge step forward towards equality for women in all aspects of life. It paved the way for the fight for fairer wages, equal education and control over their day to day lives. Ultimately, this progress provided women with greater individual economic security, which I would argue is one of the most precious of all of our freedoms. Eventually, the 19th Amendment motivated women themselves to run for political office, a movement that culminated exactly 100 years later with the election of our first female Vice President, a feat notable no matter your political inclination.
The ratification of the 19th Amendment was a critical turning point that eventually opened the door for me to access an education equal to that of my older brother and a life that allows me to be both a Partner at a law firm and a soccer mom to my son. A friend of mine is the first female District Attorney in her county. Another girlfriend was just acknowledged as a “CFO of the Year” by The Pittsburgh Business Times. These are accomplishments that would have been unthinkable just a few decades ago.
Today, Women’s Equality Day celebrates the achievements of the women’s rights movement and serves as a reminder of the ongoing struggles unique to women. Therefore, I ask that you take a moment on August 26th and reflect upon the immense progress we have made over the last century and use that appreciation as motivation to continue to propel our society forward.