Women’s Equality Day

August 25th, 2014 | Posted by Barbara Belknap in Activation

by Barbara Belknap

Today I wrote a letter to our local newspaper, the Juneau Empire, to mark Women’s Equality Day on August 26. I’m going to repurpose it with some editing for my GTW blog post. It might be a good circle discussion to talk about the status of women’s rights in your state or country.

Many of us are engaged in other women’s organizations and I have narrowed my commitments down to Gather the Women, being a Vision2020/Drexel University delegate, and helping register voters with the League of Women Voters.

Here is what I submitted to the newspaper:

Happy Women’s Equality Day! August 26th was designated as Women’s Equality Day in 1964 during the glory days of the Women’s Movement in the United States. Representative Bella Abzug sponsored the Joint Resolution for a Women’s Equality Day in 1971 to commemorate the 1920 passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which gave American women the right to vote.

The road to suffrage for American white women in 1920 was a long and shockingly violent one. (“Iron Jawed Angels” is a great movie about this era.) White women in Alaska were given the right to vote eight years earlier in the Second Organic Act of 1912 by the legislative assembly in the Territory of Alaska. Alaskan Native women (and men), were granted citizenship and the right to vote in 1924. African-American women couldn’t vote in many states until the 1964 Civil Rights Act was passed.

Fast forward from the 1920’s to 2014 and there are 20 women (out of 100) in the United States Senate, including Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski, and 79 women (out of 435) in the House of Representatives. Women outnumber men in the United States at 50.8%. We have come a long way, but we are nowhere near parity.

Carolyn V. Brown and I are the two Alaska delegates to Vision2020/Drexel University. Vision2020 has five national goals: 1) increase the number of women in senior leadership positions, 2) achieve equal pay, 3) educate employers about policies and practices that enable men and women to share family responsibilities, 4) educate new generations of girls and boys to respect their differences, and 5) mobilize women to vote with a record-setting turnout in 2020.

I’ve been working on equal pay and pay negotiation for several years, and Carolyn, a new Vision2020 delegate, is working on increasing the number of citizens who vote. We are gratified by the progress made for women’s suffrage, but we still have a long way to go until we can celebrate Women’s Equality Day with the joy it deserves.

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