Women’s Equality Day 2015 honors the 95th anniversary of the day U.S. women won the right to vote on Aug. 26, 1920.
The right to vote, also known as suffrage, was hard fought for women. But it changed the course of the nation, making the U.S. a greater place to live with improved health care and social welfare policies.
Congress passed the 19th Amendment granting women’s suffrage 72 years after the first major women’s rights conference in Seneca Falls, New York, in 1848. Between those two major events, tens of thousands of people marched, spoke, lobbied and picketed in favor of voting rights for women.
Supporters of women’s suffrage believed the big obstacle in the way of equality was the right to vote. They believed political equality would pave the way for social and economic equality.
Women’s right to vote nearly doubled the voting population at the time, and suffrage organizations like the League of Women Voters (LWV) worked hard to encourage women to vote and participate in politics. Political parties quickly realized the potential impact of the female vote and began lobbying for women’s causes.
Women’s voting interests have shaped U.S. history ever since, particularly health care, social welfare and equal rights policies.
History of Women’s Equality Day
Thousands of protestors held a nationwide rally for gender equality on the 50th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment.
On August 26, 1970, more than 100,000 women participated in the Women’s Strike for Equality. They campaigned for equal opportunity in education and employment, in addition to establishment of child-care centers.
Marches and rallies were held in major cities throughout the country, including 50,000 women who marched along Fifth Avenue in New York City. It remains the largest protest for gender equality in U.S. history.
One year later, Congress approved a bill designating August 26 as Women’s Equality Day in honor of women’s suffrage and to draw attention to women’s continued fight for equal rights.
Since then people have united on Women’s Equality Day to promote equal rights, raise awareness of women’s issues and motivate women to exercise their right to vote.
This year, a Women’s Equality Day rally and march will be held in downtown San Jose, California, on August 29 to raise awareness of the political, social and economic inequalities that currently affect women. Other fundraisers, luncheons and events will take place throughout the country, including online awareness campaigns. Use the hashtag #WomensEqualityDay to show your support.
Health Care Reform
Women’s interests groups and the power of the female vote have significantly impacted health care options in the U.S.
Women have fought for greater access to health care for all races and socioeconomic demographics, controls on health care costs, mental health care coverage and paid family medical leave.
In 1990, the LWV began a two-year study to understand the funding and delivery of health care in the U.S. The study was conducted to help the league make informed decisions about its health care position, which was finalized in April 1993 and presented to White House health care officials.
The LWV quickly became an active member of the U.S. health care debate. Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, the league lobbied for complete reform, universal coverage, cost control, comprehensive benefits and a national health insurance plan.
LWV’s unwavering support of universal health care for two decades helped to pass the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2010. The league fought against efforts to repeal ACA and continues to help at the state level to implement the Affordable Care Act, ensuring everyone has access to quality medical care.
For 95 years women’s participation in U.S. politics has influenced the health and well-being of the nation. Beneficial social services and affordable health care options are available in the U.S. largely thanks to women voters continuing to fight for these interests.
Women’s Equality Day reminds us to acknowledge the impact women have made in the U.S. and asks us to consider what else we can do to improve gender equality in the U.S.