Women’s Equality Day 2020: History, significance and all you need to know

Women’s Equality Day marks the day when the Nineteenth Amendment was adopted, and is celebrated in the United States on August 26 every year.
Women’s Equality Day commemorates the passage of women’s suffrage and reminds us of all the hurdles heroic women have overcome.(Unsplash)
Women’s Equality Day commemorates the passage of women’s suffrage and reminds us of all the hurdles heroic women have overcome.(Unsplash)
Updated on Aug 26, 2020 11:23 AM IST
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Hindustan Times, Delhi | By hindustantimes.com | Edited by Saumya Sharma

The Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was adopted, giving women the right to vote on this day in 1920. Amendment XIX prohibits any US state and the federal government from denying the right to vote to any American citizens on the basis of sex.

Women’s Equality Day commemorates the passage of women’s suffrage and reminds us of all the hurdles heroic women have overcome despite facing violence and discrimination in order to propel the women’s movement.

American women in the early 19th century, couldn’t inherit property and earned half a man’s wages in any available job. This led to a demand for requisite political rights and representation for women.

By early 20th century, other countries including Finland, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom had legalised voting for women as this movement swept across the world.

The 19th Amendment to the Constitution was first introduced in 1878 in the US but failed to gain traction at the time. It was only after women’s involvement in World War I effort that their contributions truly came to light and the women’s suffrage movement began gaining support.

Women’s rights groups also pointed out the discrepancy in the rules as on one hand, a fight for democracy in Europe was taking place, while rights were being denied to women on the other side of the world, in US.

A Constitutional amendment requires an approval from two-thirds of the states, hence 36 of them had to ratify the 19th amendment before its passage. The deciding vote came from Harry T. Burn in the Tennessee legislature, whose mother’s plea to support the amendment became a deciding factor.

On the 50th anniversary of the passing of the Nineteenth Amendment in the Constitution, the National Organisation for Women (NOW) had organised a nationwide ‘strike for equality’. Congresswoman Bella Abzug, also known as Batteling Bella, had then designated August 26 as Women’s Equality Day, following this strike.

The day was first celebrated in 1973, after Congress approved H.J. Res. 52. It stated, “the President is authorized and requested to issue a proclamation in commemoration of that day in 1920 on which the women in America were first guaranteed the right to vote.”

Women’s Equality Day serves as a reminder to do something meaningful for the women in our lives and around us. While it’s a great day to brush up on women’s history and notice how far we’ve come, it also throws light on all that still needs to change in order to ensure a safe world for women, at homes, at workplaces and everywhere they’re headed.

On Women’s Equality Day 2020, here are some inspirational quotes:

“I’m a feminist. I’ve been a female for a long time now. It’d be stupid not to be on my own side.” -- Maya Angelou, poet and civil rights activist

“I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.” -- Audre Lorde, civil rights’ activist and writer

“When girls are educated, their countries become stronger and more prosperous.” -- Michelle Obama, former First Lady of the U.S.

“We cannot all succeed when half of us are held back.” -- Malala Yousafzai, Nobel Prize laureate and female education activist

“We must reject not only the stereotypes that others hold of us, but also the stereotypes that we hold of ourselves.” -- Shirley Chisholm, first Black woman elected to Congress

“I know that many men and even women are afraid and angry when women do speak, because in this barbaric society, when women speak truly they speak subversively - they can’t help it: if you’re underneath, if you’re kept down, you break out, you subvert. We are volcanoes. When we women offer our experience as our truth, as human truth, all the maps change. There are new mountains.

That’s what I want - to hear you erupting. You young Mount St. Helenses who don’t know the power in you - I want to hear you.” -- Ursula K. Le Guin, author

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Friday, October 22, 2021