Today is Women’s Equality Day! Established August 26, 1971 by Rep. Bella Abzug, Women’s Equality Day was a way to commemorate the passage of the 19th amendment, the Woman Suffrage Movement Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which gave women full voting rights in 1920. It also commemorates the Women’s Strike for Equality where, on August 26, 1970, 20,000 women nationwide went on a labor strike–in and out of the home–calling for equal opportunity in the workforce, political rights for women, and social equality in relationships such as marriage. (Remember, this was a time when women could only get a credit card if it were in their husband’s name!)
The women’s suffrage movement was probably one of the most dedicated and diligent suffrage movements in history. I’ve never taken for granted how much those women put themselves on the line to simply earn the right to vote. Which is why I think the best way to mark the occasion would be to remember my first time voting.
I was raised in a politically minded household. My grandma was old school and as each one of the grandkids approached voting age she would always inquire as to the status of our voter registration. Especially when I, being the oldest girl, neared my 18th birthday. She felt that though it was everyone’s’ duty to vote, it was especially important for women. The idea that women’s suffrage would be taken for granted by the simple act of not voting seemed absurd.
It still does.
So, of course, I registered when I was 17 and lucky for me the first big election after my 18th birthday was President Clinton’s reelection. A very exciting election to be part of. Being born and raised a democrat my choice was obvious. As a young adult I was pretty happy with the direction the country was headed. I was happy with the job he was doing as president and I was happy to be casting a vote for him.
But as I stepped into my old junior high school gymnasium that crisp November morning to vote in my first election, I asked myself does my vote REALLY matter? Will my lowly little 18-year-old girl voice REALLY make a difference? As it turned out, it did.
The next day President Clinton won four more years in the White House. Also that next day my grandma sent me a newspaper article she’d clipped from the San Francisco chronicle, titled “Women Made the Difference.”
It stated that for the first time since women had won the right to vote they had elected the President of the United States. President Clinton did not win the male vote that year he won the female vote. And since women had the majority of votes that year, it was women who decided the election.
So my first election was also a pretty big first for the women’s suffrage movement as well. I’m always proud to have been a part of that moment and I still have that article in my hope chest today.
My daughter has been going with me to vote since she was old enough to walk. I like to instill in her the same respect for the voting process that my mother and grandmother instilled in me. And the knowledge that women had to fight for the right to vote and no matter what political party she grows up to be affiliated with it will be her duty to cast her vote in every election.
Today is a great opportunity to talk to your daughter about women’s suffrage and how important her right to vote is. Take some time and visit the library to check out some books on Women’s Suffrage or check out some online resources. Learning about the SheHeroes of yesterday is just as important as meeting the SheHeroes of today.