Celebrating women’s right to vote

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt Tasha Ringdahl
  • 28th Security Forces Squadron
Aug. 26, 2011, is the 91st anniversary of the Nineteenth Amendment before signing into law giving women the right to vote on the same basis as men. The women's suffrage amendment was introduced for the first time to the United States Congress on Jan. 10, 1878. It was re-submitted numerous times until finally, in June 1919, the amendment received approval from both the House of Representatives and the Senate. The U.S. Secretary of State, Bainbridge Colby, signed the amendment into law Aug. 26, 1920.

Fifty years later, on Aug. 26, 1970, Betty Friedan organized a nationwide Women's Strike for Equality. The strike did not stop the activities of the nation; it drew national attention to the women's rights movement. The New York Times published the first major article on the movement by covering the events of the day. It also included a map of the route the marchers took through New York City. Women across the U.S. joined together to demand equal opportunities in employment, education, and 24-hour child care centers. This was the largest protest for gender equality in U.S. history.

There were demonstrations and rallies in more than 90 major cities and small towns across the country. In Los Angeles, hundreds of women held a vigil for women's rights. Women who worked at the Detroit Free Press kicked men out of one of their restrooms, protesting the fact that men had two restrooms while women only had one. In New Orleans, women newspaper workers ran pictures of grooms instead of brides in engagement announcements. A march behind a banner reading "We Demand Equality" was staged down Connecticut Avenue in Washington, D.C. Women threw eggs at a radio host in Pittsburgh who dared them to show their liberation. Famously, women in Minneapolis gathered and put on guerrilla theater portraying key figures in the national abortion debate and classic stereotypical roles of women in American society. In the play, women were portrayed as mothers, wives, doing dishes, rearing children, and doting on their husbands all while wearing heels and an apron.

Out of all the cities that participated in the movement, New York City had the largest displays, protest and rallies; 50,000 women marched down Fifth Avenue in New York City. During the march, a woman named Alita Walsh was taken into custody for refusing to move her car during the march. Also, in New York City, women took over the Statue of Liberty to hang two, 40-foot banners from her crown. One of the banners read "March on August 26th for Equality" and the other "Women of the World Unite!" An organized group of women stopped the ticker tape at the American Stock Exchange. A lawsuit was filed against the New York City Board of Education to gain equality for women in educational administration. The case lasted 10 years, which resulted in a large increase of female principals.

In 1971, Bella Abzug introduced a bill designating Aug. 26 of each year as Women's Equality Day and the bill passed. Part of the bill reads that, Women's Equality Day is a symbol of women's continued fight for equal rights and that the United States commends and supports them. It decreed that the President is authorized and requested to issue a proclamation annually in commemoration of women's suffrage and the 1970 Strike for Equality. Women's Equality Day is a yearly reminder that the struggles of women before us will not be forgotten and will not go in vain.