Women’s Equality Day is celebrated on August 26 to commemorate the 1920 adoption of the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution. The 19th Amendment prohibits the states and the federal government from denying the right to vote to citizens of the United States on the basis of sex, although women of color were still denied that right for other reasons for decades after 1920. The National Organization for Women was part of getting “Women’s Equality Day” declared with a massive protest on the 50th anniversary of adoption of the 19th amendment. The 100th anniversary leads to other questions – like what other legal protections do women need?
It is annoying to realize that American Women didn’t get federal recognition of the right to vote until 1920. Aug 26, 2020 is the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment. Many of us know the story of the fight for suffrage kicked off at a women’s convention in Seneca Falls, NY, but Professor Lisa Tetrault published a book in 2017 explaining how what we know of Seneca Falls is a myth. The Seneca Falls storyline has narrowed our understanding of the early efforts to champion women’s rights, leaving out women of color, obscuring an activist climate that was diverse in terms of gender, socioeconomics, race and politics. Professor Tetrault was the keynote speaker at an event that NC NOW helped organize – When Women Gather: uniting for Positive Change.
Not all women got the right to vote in 1920. More on Women’s Equality Day history at “Women’s Equality Day History: Right to Vote Not Enough.”
It is clear the value of the 19th amendment was limited in 1920, as the right to vote did not extend to women who were black, Asian, or Native American. These women were prohibited by other race-based laws from voting.
Many other rights are still not guaranteed to women.
According to “From 19th Amendment to ERA” by the American Bar Association,
“One year after passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, Alice Paul returned to the broad gender equality agenda that animated the original women’s rights movement at Seneca Falls. Women lawyers in Paul’s National Women’s Party (NWP) had identified over three hundred laws that denied women equality based on their sex, including rights of employment, property, jury duty, and child custody. To address each of these at once, Paul proposed an Equal Rights Amendment that would amend the federal Constitution to guarantee equality in all areas of legal rights without regard to sex.”
The first ERA said simply that “Men and women shall have equal rights throughout the United States and every place subject to its jurisdiction.” The objective, Paul said, “is to take sex out of law—to give women the equality in law they have won at the polls.”
The right to vote was the first step – but even getting that simple right granted took a ridiculous amount of time. To this day, women do not have equal rights guaranteed by the constitution. That is why we are still fighting for an Equal Rights Amendment.