Did you know that here in the United States, August 26 is Women’s Equality Day?
This day marks the day, August 26, 1920, that women in the United States were granted the right to vote by the passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. If this is new to you, then here are some other important things you need to know about this day, that you can impress your friends with.
What was the first country to guarantee women the right to vote? Was it the United States? The UK? France? Germany? None of the above. The honor goes to New Zealand, when they granted the right to women in 1893.
The American woman‘s right to vote was a long, hard struggle that was only possible through the tireless dedication of women who never gave up. Some literally starved themselves via hunger strikes, went to jail and were involuntarily committed to mental institutions. The 2004 movie Iron Jawed Angels does a good job of portraying the dramatic events of the women’s suffrage movement.
So, just how long did it take for American women to win the vote? The first women’s rights convention (known as the Seneca Falls Convention) calling for the right to vote took place in Seneca Falls, New York in July, 1848. On August 26, 1920, which was 72 years after the Seneca Falls Convention, the 19th Amendment was passed.
How many other countries had already guaranteed women‘s right to vote before the battle was won in the United States? The answer: 16. Here’s the list by year: New Zealand (1893), Australia (1902), Finland (1906), Norway (1913), Denmark (1915), USSR (1917), Canada (1918), Germany (1918), Poland (1918), Austria (1919), Belgium (1919), Great Britain (1919), Ireland (1919), Luxembourg (1919), the Netherlands (1919), and Sweden (1919).
While the 19th Amendment passed in 1920, how long has Women‘s Equality Day been officially observed? Every president has issued a proclamation declaring Women’s Equality Day since 1971. It is thanks to the late New York congresswoman Bella Abzug that the first one was observed. In 1970, Abzug had participated in an event commemorating the 50th anniversary of the 19th Amendment and brought the idea to congress of designating August 26 of each year as Women’s Equality Day.
Not only were women who worked for women’s right to vote called suffragists or suffragettes, they were also often called immoral and radical. But, do you know where the term suffragist comes from? The word “suffrage” means to vote or the right to vote, and is also derived from the name of the voting tablets used in ancient times.
As the National Women’s History Project points out, the day not only recognizes the passage of the 19th Amendment, but it calls attention to current women’s issues. Check your local community organizations for Women’s Equality Day programs or other activities.