On Aug. 26, 1920, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, guaranteeing women the right to vote, was formally adopted. Tennessee ratified the amendment on Aug. 18, giving it the two-thirds majority of state ratification necessary to make it the law of the land.
To commemorate the amendment’s adoption and the ongoing struggle for women’s equality, Congress designated Aug. 26 as Women’s Equality Day in 1971. Presidents have also issued Women’s Equality Day proclamations. President Barack Obama issued his 2013 proclamation emphasizing the need for pay equity. He enumerated what his administration has done to further gender equality and called on Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act.
In 2010, women made up half the U.S. workforce, but only earned 78 percent as much as men. African American women earn even less – 64 percent, according to a blog on ACLU.org. Women earned the majority of college degrees, but were still more likely to serve as the primary parent and housekeeper.
Despite shortcomings, women’s rights leaders say there is much to celebrate, including President Obama signing of the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act in 2009.
In addition to pay equity, reproductive rights (especially abortion and birth control), violence and sexual assault, increasing the minimum wage and getting more women in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) professions are among the current issues on the women’s rights agenda.
Photo: A suffrage march in New York City in 1913, six years before the 19th Amendment was ratified. (U.S. Library of Congress)