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"It's Women's Equality Day!"

Updated: Aug 25, 2023


Tomorrow, August 26, is Women's Equality Day, the day to celebrate adoption of the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution ensuring that “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.”

A bit of history: On July 27, 1971, Bella Abzug, a member of the House of Representatives, introduced a bill and a resolution. First image (click to enlarge), a headline from a York, Pennsylvania, newspaper (The York Dispatch, July 27, 1971, p. 1. "Lib" is shorthand for women's liberation.)

Bella Abzug's bill was intended to prohibit any "instrumentality of the United States from using as a prefix to the name of any person any title which indicates marital status." Every time "a woman is required to designate either "Mrs." or "Miss" she is reminded that her identity is perceived not only by her sex but also by her martial status," a practice that does not "extend to the private lives of men," Abzug pointed out. Her bill received wide media coverage, some quite hostile. e.g., "Irate Libber in Congress to Declare War on 'Mrs." Oakland Tribune, (Oakland, California, July 27, 1971, p. 3.)

Bella Abzug's resolution that designed August 26 was Women's Equality Day was more calmly received. That year, on August 26, 1971, the 51st anniversary of the Nineteenth Amendment, celebrations were held throughout the United States. In New York City 400 women and "a smattering of men" attended a rally on August 25 to generate support for the events on the 26th. Betty Friedan, founder of the National Organization for Women (NOW) declared, "American politics won't be the same because of the emergence of women as a political force." President Richard Nixon issued the first official proclamation of Women's Equality Day. (Ironically Bella Abzug was on Nixon's list of his political opponents, dubbed "Nixon's Enemies List.)

In 1972, even more celebrations were held. Above image is the headline in Cincinnati, Ohio, newspaper, The Cincinnati Enquirer, August 25, 1972, p. 21. "There were posters, slogans, women dressed in historic costumes, several petition booths, dramatic readings, music, lots of sunshine and a generally amiable audience.," wrote the reporter Jo-Ann Albers. (The petition booths were for passage of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) that had first been introduced to Congress in 1923.)

On August 16, 1973, Congress approved a resolution officially designating August 26 as Women's Equality Day. The President was "authorized and requested to issue a proclamation in commemoration of that day in 1920 on which the women in America were first guaranteed the right vote." Left image. Note in the text that along with his 1973 Proclamation, President Nixon also "urged speedy ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment to break down 'barriers against what is fair and right.'"

Right image: This bizarre & obnoxious headline ("Ewebunctious" & "Gals Flock"!?!) appeared in the Lincoln Journal Star, (Lincoln, Nebraska), August, 26, 1973, p. 20. The first utterly trivializing paragraph read: “Femininity from every corner of the state and every walk of life—and flaunting every hairdo imaginable—gathered here Saturday to observe the 53rd anniversary of women’s right to vote.” (I included this image to convey a sense of what at least one newspaper thought was OK.)



Today efforts are still on going to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, designed to guarantee equal legal rights for all American citizens regardless of sex.

As for Women's Equality Day, August 26, 2023, President Biden has issued a Proclamation, noting that "we also mark the 100th anniversary of the introduction of the Equal Rights Amendment. It is long past time to definitively enshrine the principle of gender equality in the Constitution. . . ."


On a personal note: I strongly think that it is time that Congress designate Women's Equality Day as a national holiday. Of the current 11 calendar dates designated by the United States federal government as official holidays, none specifically acknowledge women's enduring and unending historical significance: FYI: Here are the current federal holidays: New Year's Day; Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr,.; Washington's Birthday, now referred to as "Presidents' Day"; Memorial Day; Juneteenth National Independence Day; Independence Day; Labor Day; Columbus Day, in some areas now celebrated as Indigenous Peoples' Day; Veterans Day; Thanksgiving Day; and Christmas Day. A national holiday dedicated to the diversity and indispensability of women is long over due!






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