The first petition for the national holiday, Women’s Equality Day, was made in 1971 when New York Congresswoman and Democratic Representative, Bella Abzug, successfully petitioned Congress to set August 26th aside as a designated holiday. August 26th was specifically selected to coincide with the 19th constitutional amendment that gave women the right to vote. Women’s Equality Day further commemorates the Women’s Strike for Equality that was held on the same date in 1970, marking the 50th anniversary of the successful ratification of women’s suffrage. The first official celebration of Women’s Equality Day was held on August 26, 1973.
Women’s Equality Day celebrates more than women’s right to cast their vote in all US governmental elections. It also celebrates the plethora of contributions women have made to society and to this country. In 1973, then President Richard Nixon stated, “The struggle for women’s suffrage, however, was only the first step toward full and equal participation of women in our Nation’s life. In recent years, we have made other giant strides by attacking sex discrimination through our laws and by paving new avenues to equal economic opportunity for women. Today, in virtually every sector of our society, women are making important contributions to the quality of American life. And yet, much still remains to be done.”
Every president from Richard Nixon to Barak Obama has issued an official declaration and public proclamation in commemoration of Women’s Equality Day. The day is often recognized by women’s rights groups and organizations with rallies, seminars, and workshops that celebrate women’s accomplishments and address ongoing women’s issues and concerns. It is hailed as a day to educate society on the difficult journey woman have sustained, and to ensure women and girls understand the significant contributions they’ve made.
Today, many trailblazing women continue to change the fabric of our society and make major strides in many areas from educational to technological to governmental. It is vital that women are recognized and acknowledged for their achievements for two reasons. First and foremost, because they deserve to have their contributions venerated and commemorated. Finally, it is important so that generations of girls have a steady stream of role models to look to – women who let them know that they matter, that they’re capable, and that they can follow in legendary footsteps and make significant contributions of their own.