It’s 2012 and although women have made enormous strides in achieving equality, it wasn’t so long ago that we didn’t even have the right to vote. This Sunday is National Women’s Equality Day, established in 1971 to commemorate the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, giving women the right to vote. With Election Day around the corner, and candidates fighting for women’s votes, it’s more important than ever to remember the significance of this day.
The 19th Amendment, which was drafted by women’s movement pioneers, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Stanton was first introduced to Congress in January 1878, but it took decades to accomplish their purpose. The proposed amendment was considered a radical change to the Constitution and remained a controversial issue at both the national and state level, taking over 40 years of protests, petitions and arrests until it was finally passed in 1920.
In 1970, first time Congresswoman, social activist and the leader of the women’s movement, Bella Abzug, introduced a Joint Resolution of Congress designating August 26th as Women’s Equality Day, which was passed in 1971. The resolution included a specific request for an annual Presidential proclamation commemorating the 19th Amendment. Since its inception, every President has honored this request, each in their own words, recognizing the long and continued struggle for women’s equality (you can read the last twelve years of proclamations here).
Over the next several weeks leading up to the Presidential election, we will be bombarded with messages from candidates and opposing parties, all of whom will be courting the women’s vote. Of the total citizens that voted in the 2008 election, 66% of them were women, whereas 61.5% were men (Election 2008 Census Report). If women continue to mobilize, we have the ability to determine the outcome of this election, in either direction. So, this Sunday on Women’s Equality Day, let’s remember to embrace our power… it’s up to us to honor the women who fought for our right to vote and make sure we use it!
If you are not registered to vote in the upcoming election, there’s still time! You need to register at least 30 days before Election Day, November 6, 2012, but check your state election office to find out more about registration deadlines.