The Lessons of Women’s Equality Day

By Guest Blogger

Cross-posted with Jewesses With Attitude.

Thirty-nine years ago today, legendary Congresswoman Bella Abzug led Congress in designating August 26th “Women’s Equality Day.”

Exactly one year prior, Abzug had spoken at the “Women Strike for Equality” march, a gathering of 10,000 women in New York organized by Betty Friedan and a coalition of feminist activists, including the National Organization for Women (NOW), the YWCA, the National Coalition of American Nuns, Feminists in the Arts, and Women Strike for Peace. Protesters took to the streets of Manhattan to both celebrate the 50th anniversary of the 19th Amendment and demand further rights for women. The diversity and size of the gathering guaranteed an extensive and varied list of demands, but three major issues were on everyone’s mind: legal and safe abortion, access to free childcare centers in every community, and equal opportunities for women in jobs and education. In addition to the protest in New York, gatherings took place around the country (in fact, FMF President Ellie Smeal became active in NOW that day as an attendee of a day-long conference in Pittsburgh).

So when Bella Abzug introduced the Women’s Equality Day resolution to Congress in 1971, she was not just thinking about the remarkable achievements of the suffragists who worked tirelessly for eighty years in support of women’s suffrage before finally passing the 19th Amendment. Looming in her mind, and reflected in the resolution’s text, were the battles that had not yet been won. Today, celebrate Women’s Equality Day by honoring the amazing achievements of the suffragists who brought us voting rights, the second wave feminists who took to the streets back in 1970, and the activists today who continue to fight for a more just world. Think about the world today, and consider just a few of the problems we are facing–government officials who want to take away our access to abortion services, violent attacks on transgender people, discrimination against and mistreatment of disabled people around the world, and xenophobic calls for the end of freedom of religion. Today is the perfect day to do something about these issues and respect the courage our foremothers by taking action ourselves.

For a great link roundup on Women’s Equality Day and Women Strike for Equality, check out Leah’s post.

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