Women’s Equality Day 2009

Celebrate Women’s Equality Day, by blogging about it, and watch the movie “Iron Jawed Angels”

A Great Movie!

Wear Purple in Solidarity!

From http://www.herald-dispatch.com/opinions/x1562573307/Womens-suffrage-film-celebrates-freedoms, 8/12/09:

“Iron Jawed Angels” recounts for a modern audience a key chapter in U.S. history, the story of suffragists who fought for the right to vote during a period covering 1912-1920. The movie focuses on two young women, Alice Paul and Lucy Burns, and their fight to build on the previous work of the National American Women’s Suffrage Association (NAWSA). The movie stars Hillary Swank, Frances O’Connor, Angelica Huston and Julia Ormond, and there are many other outstanding actors in the film.

The film describes the struggles of brave women as they picketed the White House, spoke at public gatherings, lobbied President Wilson and members of Congress, wrote articles, and published their own newspaper. It also shows their arrests and subsequent time in a prison/work house. The film does not “pull any punches.”

As we remember the struggles to abolish slavery and to establish civil rights, we must also remember the struggles for women’s suffrage. Those of us who live today with so many freedoms have a debt to pay to those who worked hard and, in some cases, gave their lives to those labors. Both adults and young people should know who made it possible for us to live with those freedoms — names such as Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Ida Wells Barnett, Alice Paul, Lucy Burns, Carrie Chapman Catt. West Virginia had its own heroines: Lenna Yost, Henriette Romine Fulks, Fannie Wheat, as well as many in the trenches.

We hope the film will trigger us to read more about these heroic women so that we will not forget what they sacrificed for us. Understanding our history gives us courage and strength to work for the issues that confront us today. The right to vote did not come easily to our country and we should not take our responsibility to vote lightly.

Helen Gibbins is president of the League of Women Voters of the Huntington Area.

August 26th is the anniversary of national woman suffrage.  Across the seventy-two years between the first major women’s rights conference at Senecca Falls, New York, in 1848, and the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, thousands of people participated in marches through cities like New York and Washington DC, wrote editorials and pamphlets, gave speeches all over the nation, lobbied political organizations, and held demonstrations with the goal of achieving voting rights for women.  Women also picketed the White House with questions like, “Mr. President, what are you going to do about woman’s suffrage?” “Mr. President, how long must women wait for liberty?”  This was the first time in history that a group of people picketed the White House. 

The woman suffrage amendment was introduced for the first time to the United States Congress on January 10, 1878.  It was re-submitted numerous times until finally in June 1919 the amendment received approval from both the House of Representatives and the Senate.  Over the following year the suffragists spent their time lobbying states in order to have the amendment ratified by the required two-thirds of the states.  On August 24th, Tennessee, the final state needed for ratification, narrowly signed the approval by one vote.  The vote belonged to Harry Burn, who heeded the words of his mother when she urged him to vote yes on suffrage.  The U.S. Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby signed the amendment into law on August 26, 1920.

Fifty years later on August 26th, 1970, Betty Friedan and the National Organization of Women (NOW) organized a nationwide Women’s Strike for Equality.  Women across the political spectrum joined together to demand equal opportunities in employment, education, and twenty-four hour child-care centers.  This was the largest protest for gender equality in U.S. history.  There were demonstrations and rallies in more than ninety major cities and small towns across the country and over 100,000 women participated, including 50,000 who marched down Fifth Avenue in New York City. 

Several other acts occurred on that day to help the cause and prompt more press coverage on the women’s movement.  For example, women in New York City took over the Statue of Liberty.  In preparation, several women climbed up to measure the wind velocity.  Later they returned to the Statue with two forty-foot banners to hang from the crown.  One read: “March on August 26 for Equality.” The other: “Women of the World Unite.”  An organized group stopped the ticker tape at the American Stock Exchange, and they held signs with slogans like, “We won’t bear any more bull.”  Another action taken during the day was a lawsuit filed against the New York City Board of Education to gain equality for women in educational administration. The case lasted about ten years and finally resulted in a larger increase in female principals. 

While the strike did not halt the activities of the nation, it drew national attention to the women’s rights movement.  For example, The New York Times published their first major article on the feminist movement by covering the events of the day.  It even included a map of the route the marchers took through New York City. 

The following year in 1971, Representative Bella Abzug (D-NY) introduced a bill designating August 26th of each year as Women’s Equality Day and the bill passed.  Part of the bill reads that Women’s Equality Day is a symbol of women’s continued fight for equal rights and that the United States commends and supports them.  It decreed that the President is authorized and requested to issue a proclamation annually in commemoration of woman suffrage and the 1970 Strike for Equality. Women today continue to draw on the history of these brave and determined women.

Joint Resolution of Congress, 1971
Designating August 26 of each year as Women’s Equality Day

WHEREAS, the women of the United States have been treated as second-class citizens and have not been entitled the full rights and privileges, public or private, legal or institutional, which are available to male citizens of the United States; and

WHEREAS, the women of the United States have united to assure that these rights and privileges are available to all citizens equally regardless of sex; and

WHEREAS, the women of the United States have designated August 26, the anniversary date of the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, as symbol of the continued fight for equal rights: and

WHEREAS, the women of United States are to be commended and supported in their organizations and activities,

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, that August 26th of each year is designated as Women’s Equality Day, and the President is authorized and requested to issue a proclamation annually in commemoration of that day in 1920, on which the women of America were first given the right to vote, and that day in 1970, on which a nationwide demonstration for women’s rights took place.


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