Celebration of Women’s Equality Day Highlights History

By Ella Forsthoffer ’24

A celebration of Women’s Equality Day was held across the nation on August 26, 2022. This annually recognized day honors the movement for universal suffrage that led to the 19th Amendment, celebrates the achievements that women have made over the years, and reaffirms our country’s commitment to women’s rights and gender equity.

In honor of this day, people acknowledge the accomplishments of women in various fields that were once reserved for men and raise awareness of the issues that women face in society, such as pay disparity, racial equality, reproductive rights, equal opportunities, gender-based violence, and gender-based discrimination.

As for students at Ursuline Academy, this day is an important reminder that gender does not define our intelligence, quality of work, or character.

“I think a spectacular role model of what it means to experience women’s empowerment is thriving in the academic and extracurricular setting of Ursuline Academy. For example, our school newspaper and Esse Literary Magazine have both been nationally recognized and many of our girls have verbally committed to an abundance of amazing schools due to their dedication to athletics,” Sofia Velesiotis ‘24 said.

When asked to share a women’s empowerment moment that inspired her, Ursuline’s very own Dr. Griffin talked about her experience.

“Over the years, I have had the opportunity to hear many incredible speakers tell stories of their fight for gender equality, but I don’t think anything tops when I (and my fellow teachers) hear from former UA students who have found success in college or their careers. In fact, just watching Ursuline students support and encourage each other gives me a daily inspirational dose of women’s empowerment,” Dr. Griffin said.

The process of Women’s Equality Day becoming annually recognized began on August 26, 1970, on the 50th anniversary of women gaining the right to vote in the U.S. On that day, 50,000 women joined together in New York City, and while locking arms, marched down Fifth Avenue for the Women’s Strike for Equality March. The event was officially sponsored by the National Organization for Women and conceived by American feminist writer Betty Friedan.

According to the National Women’s History Alliance, Bella Abzug, a Representative of New York who took part in that march and was inspired by the events of the day, began pushing for an annual recognition of women’s rights to be passed by the federal government.

After two years of work, the first formal declaration of Women’s Equality Day was made in 1972 when former US President Richard Nixon issued Proclamation 4147 designating August 26 as “Women’s Rights Day.” Since then, every U.S. president has made a proclamation recognizing the annual observation.

The 1920 certification of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution granting women the right to vote was the culmination of a massive, peaceful civil rights movement by women that began in 1848 at the world’s first women’s rights convention, in Seneca Falls, New York.

This convention was led by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Quaker abolitionist Lucretia Mott with about 300 people—most of whom were women—in attendance to outline a direction for the women’s rights movement.

Stanton’s call to arms, her “Declaration of Sentiments,” echoed the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal.” In a list of resolutions, Stanton cataloged economic and educational inequities, restrictive laws on marriage and property rights, and social and cultural norms that prevented women from enjoying “all the rights and privileges which belong to them as citizens of the United States.”

The convention eventually approved the voting rights resolution after abolitionist Frederick Douglass spoke in support of it.

Through the work of women like Stanton and Massachusetts teacher Susan B. Anthony, the 19th Amendment was ratified on August 18, 1920, declaring, “the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

However, it is crucial to remember that not all women were given the right to vote by this amendment. The White House proclamation on Women’s Equality Day 2022 reads, “Yet many women of color who helped lead the universal suffrage movement were effectively denied those rights until the Voting Rights Act passed 45 years later,” in 1965. In fact, many suffrage organizations didn’t prioritize Black women’s voting rights, and as Black studies scholar Denise Darrah writes, “The National American Woman Suffrage Association did not include black women in its membership.”

Today, the struggle to ensure that every American can cast their ballot continues. 

This year is the 102nd anniversary of women’s suffrage in the United States and it is inspiring to look back on the significant gains that have been made with regard to women’s rights in the century since the ratification of the 19th amendment. Society has evolved from not giving equality to all men and women, to celebrating a day for women’s equality. 

The theme for Women’s Equality Day 2022 is, “Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow”, recognizing the contribution of women and girls around the world, who are leading the charge on climate change adaptation, mitigation, and response, to build a more sustainable future for all.

Women and girls are effective and powerful leaders and change-makers for climate adaptation and mitigation. They are involved in sustainability initiatives around the world, and their participation and leadership result in more effective climate action.

Without gender equality today, a sustainable and equal future remains beyond reach.

“I support women’s empowerment and gender equality because I want to honor the legacy of all those incredible women whose work, both seen and unseen, has made it a whole lot easier for me to walk a little taller, move a little more freely, and be heard a little more clearly. Also, because I know that my students deserve to live in a world that does not deny them opportunities because of their sex,” Dr. Griffin said.

Ursuline junior Madeline Butler ’24 feels the same way.

“Women’s Equality Day is an excellent reminder of the progress we have made towards gender equality, but it also reminds us of the progress we have yet to make,” Butler said.

Women’s Equality Day is considered to be a significant day in American history because even after more than 100 years, women still experience prejudice due to their gender in many professions and industries. One should take the time to honor and recognize the special women in their life who have fought tirelessly for their equal position in society and paved the way for future generations. Furthermore, keep in mind that the fight for equality is not over, and it is everyone’s responsibility to continue it.

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