Did you know that August 26 is Women's Equality Day in the US? This day commemorates the passage of the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution, giving women the right to vote. The right for women to vote was first proposed in 1848, but did not become law until 1920, 72 years later. For 72 years, American women organized, rallied, and fought for the right to vote, something we take for granted today.
The first country to give women the right to vote was New Zealand in 1893, but women in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait still do not have the right to vote. Even though the 19th amendment was ratified by a narrow margin in 1920, Mississippi did not officially ratify it until 1983.
Women's Equality Day was first celebrated in 1971, after New York Congresswoman Bella Abzug proposed to mark August 26 as Women's Equality Day. I had the honor of meeting Bella Abzug in 1980 at a rally. She was a formidable, charming woman with a great passion for social change and women's rights. She died in 1998.
In 1995, at the World Summit on Economic Development in Copenhagen, Bella said:
Our struggle is about resisting the slide into a morass of anarchy, violence, intolerance, inequality and injustice.
Our struggle is about reversing the trends of social, economic, political and ecological crisis.
Our struggle is about creating sustainable lives, and attainable dreams...
Because the root of the problem is persistent inequalities and growing inequities.
For us to realize our dreams, we must keep our heads in the clouds and our feet on the ground.
We must marshall our courage and creativity and act together...
If we love ourselves, if we love our young, if we love our country and the earth, -- and we do -- then that same motivation must move us to create not only the words but the actions to remove the great divide between rich and poor.
I hope that all women of voting age in the US will remember what a precious gift it is to be able to vote. I hope that all women will take to heart Bella's words and know that the first act in the struggle for equality and justice for all people is to exercise your right to vote.
Banner from Emily's List, an organization dedicated to supporting Democratic women in their bids to be elected to office.