Women's Equality Day

Next Saturday, 26 August 2023

August 26 is Women's Equality Day in the United States, a day to commemorate the 19th amendment of the Constitution which, in 1920, gave women the right to vote. 

Women's Equality Day is not a public holiday and so businesses and schools remain open. 


Before 1920 it was illegal for women to vote. In fact, until 1868, the right to vote was only held by white male land owners. This was changed in the 14th amendment which gave any man born in the US that right. In 1870 the 15th amendment was signed to prevent any American citizen from being denied his right to vote based on their race, color, or whether they used to be a slave. Women however were not included in the 15th amendment and were still denied the right to vote. Although it was illegal for women to vote in most states, women did try to cast their votes under the 15th amendment during elections and were often arrested. 

The fight for women's rights in the United States began on July 19, 1848, with the Seneca Falls Convention. Over 200 women gathered there 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. 

Some individual states were very quick to allow women the right to vote. For example the state of Wyoming gave women the right to vote in 1869, other states such as Kentucky allowed widows with children to vote. It took a lot longer however to persuade the nation to change it's electoral system.

In 1869 Susan B. Anthony founded the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA), this organization began a paper called The Revolution which wrote articles about equality, and petitioned the government for change. After 17 years of campaigning, the NWSA and other organizations were successful in bringing the first debate on equality to congress in 1886. The motion to allow women the right to vote was defeated by a large margin.

1913 Suffrage paraders
Suffrage paraders in 1913

The Suffragettes returned to Congress in 1919 with support from new states in the Union that already had equal rights for women in their own constitution. Large numbers of women took to the streets to protest for their rights and in May 1919 the majority of Congress voted for the 19th amendment to be added to the Constitution. The Secretary of State, Bainbridge Colby, signed the amendment in 1920 on August 2, officially giving women in the United States the right to vote. 

Women's Equality Day Background

The idea of creating a day to celebrate equality and women's right to vote came from New York Congresswoman Bella Azbug. In 1971 she introduced a resolution to congress suggesting August 26 should declared as Women's Equality Day. Congress met in 1973 on August 16 and approved the resolution. Ten days later Women's Equality Day was celebrated for the first time. The resolution also requested the President to issue an annual proclamation commemorating August 26 as the day 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

A great way to recognize and celebrate the women that fought for the right to vote is by registering to vote and making sure your voice is heard. Like the Suffragettes, we all have the power to make a difference. 

You can also show your support for women by volunteering at women shelters, signing petitions or joining the many organizations that continue to push for women's equal rights. It is also a day to celebrate with friends the achievements and progress that has been made over the last decade to create a fairer society. 

Women's Equality Day
Women's Equality Day

Women's Equality Day - Next years

Monday, 26 August 2024

Tuesday, 26 August 2025

Wednesday, 26 August 2026

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