Today marks the anniversary of the day the 19th amendment – the right for U.S. citizens to vote regardless of sex – was certified as U.S. law. Women were officially given the right to vote on August 26, 1920, though the amendment that was drafted and introduced 42 years earlier by Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.
On the same day half a century later, the National Organization for Women organized a nationwide “strike for equality.” Women in 40 cities put on demonstrations to show the rest of the country that the fight for equality was far from over; in New York City alone, 50,000 women marched down 5th Avenue. The following year, Congresswoman Bella Abzug introduced legislation to designate August 26th as Women’s Equality Day. Every president has published a proclamation on the 26th since, from Richard Nixon to President Obama.
While we’ve won quite a few battles and planted many flags over the years, the women of today have a long list to tackle. Women still earn only 78 cents on the dollar compared to men more than 47 years after the passage of the Equal Pay Act. Justice continues to go unserved for the victims of sexual assault. Sex workers face the struggle of being denied basic human and labor rights. Victim-blaming and slut-shaming are rampant in today’s dialogue. And women are criticizing other women for partaking in activities that were once deemed “unfeminist” and “housewife-like.” (If she loves nothing more than making delicious pumpkin bread, then let her bake, for Pete’s sake!)
Whether you’re a cupcake-baking porn lover, a Summer’s-Eve-hating urban farmer, a mom working a part-time job, or an avid activist waiting for the day that women can bring their girlfriends home without being shunned by family, we’re all fighting our own battles every day. And we’re fighting them for each other.
Today is an “official” day to commemorate the decades of fantastic ladies who have given us the tools to work through the new knots that have formed. But we don’t need to limit our thinking, speaking, and acting to one day a year.
We’ve come a long way, baby, but it ain’t time to rest yet.
Check for local events celebrating Women’s Equality Day across the country. Hold discussions with friends and community members. And make sure you’re registered to vote!
Illustration by Erina Davidson