Today is Women’s Equality Day. Again. You forgot? Never knew? Join the crowd. Why this day? The end of summer? Women’s suffrage. Passage of the 19th amendment to the US Constitution. And what have we done with that vote?
Not to be forgotten, Congresswoman Bella Abzug sponsored legislation in 1971 giving our president the opportunity each and every year to proclaim August 26 Women’s Equality Day. And his proclamation has been made. I find it discouraging that the fact that there is even a need for these special days and proclamations.
Is there still a need? Maybe history will tell.
The First Wave of Feminism: Can you imagine the excitement of the women in 1848, in Seneca Falls, New York, when they had their first conference on women’s rights? They worked for 72 years before the first critical step of gaining a women’s right to vote was achieved. Do you remember the stories of heroic women suffragettes (Glynis Johns as Mrs. Banks in Mary Poppins, the movie, notwithstanding) who faced prison to protest their status as less than equal participants in our democracy?
The Second Wave of Feminism: Do you remember Betty Friedan, Kate Millet, Germaine Greer, and Gloria Steinem? How about bra burning or Ms. Magazine? Consciousness raising and support groups? The legislation that followed? The doors that started opening?
The Third Wave of Feminism: Do you remember 1992, The Year of the Woman, when 4 new women were elected to the US Senate to join the 2 sitting female senators? Do you remember the failure of the Equal Rights Amendment to pass? Do you remember that April something this year, 2013 was the day this year that women finally had earned enough so that their salary was equal to that of men—an additional 4 months?
There is so much to remember that we might tend to forget that day in and day out, in so many ways and in so many places women continue to receive unfair and unequal treatment. Women who care about these things will write blogs for each other, and despite this (and now 2 women on the US Supreme Court) most everything will go on just the way it was before. Is this just another hollow holiday not even worth a Hallmark greeting card let alone anything more substantial than a feel-good photo op?
The collective of women and those who care about women can and must make a difference. Now every one of you, take a moment and think about what you can do today, on August 26, and every day to build upon the work of more than 150 years of women in the American political discourse.
Here are a few suggestions: Make sure your voices are heard on whatever issue that affects you as a woman, no matter what side of the political spectrum you are on. The AAUW has an excellent platform that is pertinent for women of all political persuasions. Think about gender issues that may not be so obvious and check out the National Women’s Legal Center or Women’s E-News. Take action with an organization that works locally, nationally or internationally. Or just make sure you treat the women who might work with you or for you fairly and equitably.
Find an opportunity to make a difference. There are lots of terrific women out there who are making a difference. You need to become one of them. Women’s Equality Day may be today but our efforts must persist everyday!