August 26 is Women's Equality Day in the United States, a day to commemorate the 19th amendment to the Constitution that gave women the right to vote.
Women's Equality Day is not a public holiday, and as such businesses and schools remain open.
While all male citizens have been allowed to vote since 1868, and voting rights were extended to any American citizen regardless of their race, color, or whether they used to be a slave, with the 15th amendment in 1870, women fought for many years to be able to get an equal say in government elections. It was illegal for women to vote in most states, and women who tried to cast their votes under the 15th amendment during the elections were often arrested.
The fight for women's rights in the United States began on July 19, 1848, with the Seneca Falls Convention. There, over 200 women gathered to discuss the issues and discrimination that women faced based on their gender, they believed they deserved to be equal to men economically, legally, socially, and representatively. Some of the attendees were unsure about the fight for their right to vote, as they feared that their male supporters would withdraw. It was the support of Frederick Douglass that moved the fight for votes for women forward.
In 1869 Susan B. Anthony founded the National Woman Suffrage Association, but it wasn't until 1886 that they got Congress to go over the amendment to give women the right to vote, which was denied. It took another 34 years before the Suffragettes got the amendment to Congress again, which this time was aided by some new states that had entered the Union and had equal rights for women in their own constitution. Women took to the streets to protest for their rights, and in May 1919 the majority of Congress voted for the amendment to be added to the Constitution.
The amendment only became official on August 2, 1920, when Bainbridge Colby, the Secretary of State, signed the proclamation that gave women in the United States the right to vote.
Women's Equality Day Background
The idea for a day to celebrate Women's Equality came from New York Congresswoman Bella Azbug, who introduced a resolution to designate August 26 as the day for the holiday to be commemorated in 1971 and 1973.
On August 16, 1973, Congress officially approved the designation of August 26 as Women's Equality Day, stating that the President is required to issue an annual proclamation to commemorate August 26 as the day that women won the right to vote. Every President since Richard Nixon has issued a proclamation designating August 26 as Women's Equality Day.
How to Celebrate Women's Equality Day
The best way to commemorate the women that fought for the right to vote is by registering to vote and make your voice be heard. Like the Suffragettes, we all have the power to make a change.
You can also show your support for women by volunteering at women shelters, signing petitions for the equality of women, or joining the many organizations that are continuing the fight for equal rights for women.
On a personal level, you can get the women in your life together and have a celebration.