With all of the politics surrounding women’s rights in the year 2016, it can be easy to lose sight of how much women have accomplished in terms of equality. In the U.S., Women’s Equality Day is observed on August 26 in commemoration of the 19th Amendment that stated that denying anyone the right to vote based on their gender was unconstitutional. This amendment was ratified on August 18, 1920, marking the end of the country’s women’s suffrage movement.
“Tennessee was the final state needed for the 19th Amendment to be ratified.”
Remembering the suffragettes
The women’s suffrage movement wasn’t a short one. According to The History Channel, the process of granting women the right to vote took almost a century. Without women like Susan B. Anthony, Lucy Burn, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, it’s difficult to tell what this country would be like today.
The movement started off slow near the beginning of the Civil War. There were two major groups championing the cause: the National Woman Suffrage Association and the American Woman Suffrage Association. The movement really began taking off when the two groups merged and formed the National American Woman Suffrage Association in 1890, led by Stanton. The movement helped get the word out, and states, mainly the northern and western ones, slowly began allowing women to vote on a state level.
Tennessee was the final state needed for the 19th Amendment to be ratified. When it was up for a vote in August 1919, it was just one vote that slid the amendment by. According to the National Women’s History Museum, that vote was Harry Burn, who was swayed by his mother to vote yes.
The Women’s Rights Movement
It was in the 1960s that the second wave of feminism really took off. Rather than fighting for the right to vote, the women of the Women’s Movement strived for equality in all aspects. They fought against the expectation that a woman’s life was to revolve around finding a husband and raising a family.
The women of the 1960s wanted more options in the professional world. According to Tavaana, approximately 38 percent of women in the 1960s worked, and most of them were teachers, nurses or secretaries – roles designated for women at the time. To fight these expectations as well as other women’s rights issues, the National Organization for Women was established.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, approximately 57 percent of women who are of working age are in the labor force now, but the three most common jobs for women are still secretaries, teachers and nurses. The National Women’s History project also reported that the average age that women married rose from 20 to 24 years old in the 25 years after the Women’s Movement peaked.
Women in the U.S. don’t take the rights that the Women’s Suffrage Movement fought for lightly. In fact, according to Time Magazine, women have a higher turnout at the polls than men do. In 2012, 64 percent of women who were eligible to vote did, while only 60 percent of eligible men voted. That equals out to 71.4 million women as opposed to 61.6 million men.
However, women’s rights aren’t where they should be. According to U.S. History, the National Women’s Party proposed another amendment, known as the Equal Rights Amendment that deemed any discrimination on the basis of sex unconstitutional in 1923. It was never ratified. In fact, the proposal expired in 1982. At that point, it was three states short of the necessary support that would have pushed it forward.
While the ERA was never passed and the glass ceiling must still be shattered for women in this country, Women’s Equality Day is a pleasant reminder of how far we’ve come and gives us a reason to keep moving forward.