I would have posted this earlier, but I was out of town this weekend...
Sometimes people are down on August as the month with no holidays. But there's a lot to celebrate on August 26. It's Women's Equality Day â the anniversary of the day that, 84 years ago, women earned the right to vote.
In some ways, women and men are still on unequal ground. For instance, women who work full time only make 77 cents for every dollar men make. Nevertheless, the right to vote gives women a true voice in the U.S. government. "It's the most powerful tool in a democracy," says Angi, 19. It's just amazing that it took so long!
The Story of Suffrage
The right to vote is also called suffrage, and the women who fought for their voting rights are called suffragists. You might have heard some of their names in history class â Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Lucretia Mott were just a few. Originally involved in the anti-slavery movement, they got together at the first Women's Rights Convention in 1848 in Seneca Falls, NY. The suffragists wanted all kinds of rights for women, but they believed that voting was the most important and would lead to other rights.
It wasn't easy. Many people thought that women weren't as smart as men, and that their husbands should speak for them. They also worried that families would fall apart if women started to get involved in the political process. The suffragists had to take some extreme actions â including getting arrested and going on hunger strikes â to call attention to their cause.
During the fight for women's suffrage in the U.S., 16 other countries, including Finland, Germany, and Poland, granted women the right to vote. It wasn't until 1920 that the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, also called the Susan B. Anthony amendment, was approved â or ratified â by all the states. That means it took 72 years after Seneca Falls for women to finally get the right to vote! The good news is that now, adult women can vote in the U.S. and in almost every country in which adult men can vote.
After about 50 more years passed â in 1971, to be exact â Congresswoman Bella Azbug, a Democrat from New York, introduced a bill to make August 26 Women's Equality Day.
How to Mark the Day
The most important thing you can do to celebrate Women's Equality Day is to take advantage of the rights that the suffragists fought for. This is true whether you're a girl or a guy. "Voting is a privilege and a right," says Adam, 13. "If you're old enough to vote, you should take advantage of the freedoms that we have."
If you're 18 or older, or will be by the time of the next national election in November, make sure you're registered to vote. It's easy â you can even do it online at Declare Yourself.
Even if you're under 18, you can still celebrate Women's Equality Day â and you can still make a difference! First off, educate yourself about the candidates and learn more about the issues that are important to you. Then talk to your parents, your older friends, and your sisters and brothers about why it's so important to vote. Make your voice heard by writing letters to the editor of your local newspaper or volunteering with an organization working on issue you care about.
You could also take some time to think about the women who fought for the right to vote â and about the feminists â women and men â who are still fighting for the rights of girls and women everywhere. If you are close to a women's history museum, such as the Women's Museum in Dallas or the International Women's Air and Space Museum in Cleveland, stop by for a visit. Click here to find a women's museum near you!
Finally, say extra special thank you to the women who are your teachers, principals, coaches, mothers, and aunts. Chances are they worked hard to get where they are, and they're helping the next generation of women achieve their goals.