By Master Sgt. Nicole Perez, 96th Civil Engineer Group
/ Published August 31, 2020
Graphic courtesy of DEOMI)
"Men, their rights, and nothing more; Women, their rights, and nothing less.” Susan B. Anthony
The right to vote, the cornerstone of democracy, belongs to all citizens, but that wasn’t always the case.
Women’s Equality Day is celebrated each year on August 26 to commemorate the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution in 1920. This day marked the day women were finally granted the right to vote. It was a turning point in history of the struggle for equal treatment of women and women’s rights that took nearly a century to fully realize.
As a nation, we take time every year to recognize the hard-fought victory of the women’s suffrage movement. A battle that was fought over decades and finally won.
Beginning in the mid-19th century many women activists marched, wrote, lectured, and practiced civil rights disobedience to achieve what many Americans consider a radical change to the Constitution. During the early 19th century, American women did not have equal rights as men. They could not inherit property, could not vote, and made half of a man’s wages in any available job.
Women’s rights groups began organizing to demand political rights and representation. It wasn’t until women’s involvement in World War I that women finally gained enough support in the women’s suffrage movement.
A constitutional amendment requires approval from two-thirds of the states. This meant 36 of the 48 states, at that time, had to ratify the amendment before it could pass. It all came down to a single vote in the Tennessee legislature.
This vote came down to Harry T. Burn, a 24-year-old state representative, who initially planned to vote against the amendment. If it wasn’t for his mother, a women’s rights advocate, he would have never switched his vote to allow the amendment to pass.
This year we celebrate the 100-year anniversary of this monumental occasion. In 1971, Representative Bella Abzug called on Congress to commemorate the date, and “Women’s Equality Day” was born.
The recent pandemic postponed many in-person events, but there are many ways to still celebrate. Visit the following links to find ways to participate, donate, or support national and local events:
Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission
Women’s Vote Centennial Initiative
National Association of Commissions for Women