On the fateful day of August 26, 1920, the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution granted women across the United States the right to vote. This was only the peak of a massive, peaceful revolution led by women that began somewhere around 1848 at the world’s first women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls, New York.
This day not only stands as a turning point in our history of the struggle for equal treatment of women and women’s rights, but as the result of seventy two years of campaigning by civil rights movements for women. Prior to these movements, a woman’s inferior status in society was seen as logical, even reasonable. It was believed that women were simply meant to be beautiful, were unfit for serious employment, and were unable to properly be active citizens in their community, unlike men.
Over the last century, these views have been proved wrong time and time again by inspiring women like Rosa Parks and Eleanor Roosevelt, who showed the world just what women are capable of achieving if given the opportunity.
Being a young woman myself living in the United States, this day is very, very special to me. If you take a moment to look around you, you’ll realize how much the world has changed from what it was back then. That girl you see walking hurriedly down the street in an expensive suit, checking her watch every five seconds so as not to miss the Subway that’s taking her to her first job interview at a law firm… well, that girl didn’t exist back then. Forget having an interview in the first place; that girl wasn’t even allowed to work. In fact, it was forced upon her to stay at home, raise her children, look after her husband, and do the same the next day and the day after that. Can you imagine what that must’ve been like? To feel so utterly helpless and useless in a world that constantly undermined you and your abilities and talents? I can’t. It terrifies me and it breaks my heart to know that a woman, just like me, years and years ago, had to live her life like that.
Women’s Equality Day doesn’t just celebrate the right to vote — it celebrates how women have changed the way they are perceived by society, simply by being themselves and fighting for what they believe they deserve. It celebrates not only a position for women in the political world, but an equal position in society, right alongside a man, with the same capabilities and ideas.
This day is special to me because it reminds me to be thankful to the women who took that first step all those years ago and fought for their rights. If it weren’t for them, women in America and all across the world wouldn’t be where they are now. That girl going to her first job interview wouldn’t have the expensive suit she bought with her own hard earned money, or the watch she was checking to make sure she wasn’t late. I probably wouldn’t be able to go to college, or vote in the upcoming 2016 presidential election, or be able to watch a famous female actress on TV or listen to a female singer cover my favorite song, or have any dreams for the future at all. The granting of the right to vote triggered a chain reaction: other countries began to grant the same rights to women, and so on and so forth. Women’s Equality Day granted women their independence. Their rightful place in their homes, in their community, in society, in the world.
Although we have come this far, there’s still a long way to go. There are still places in the world, sadly, where women’s rights are still an ongoing issue. Take the powerful and inspiring story of Malala Yousafzai, for example. She fought, and is continuing to fight for young girls in developing countries for their right to learn, to go to school. Suppression, violence and discrimination towards women and young girls in these developing countries still exists. It’s our mission in this day and age to do whatever we can to help stop this. Whether that be by simply putting an end to a stereotype concerning women, or donating towards a cause such as building a school for uneducated girls in developing countries, or joining women’s empowerment movements to fight for these girls; it’s our job to put an end to their suffering and make sure the world stops treating men and women as separate beings with separate roles, but instead treating them as equals.
I’ll end by sharing some amazing quotes by inspiring, powerful women throughout history:
“Men, their rights, and nothing more; women, their rights, and nothing less.” –Susan B. Anthony
“Women, like men, should try to do the impossible. And when they fail, their failure should be a challenge to others.” –Amelia Earhart
“I write for those women who do not speak, for those who do not have a voice because they were so terrified, because we are taught to respect fear more than ourselves. We’ve been taught that silence would save us, but it won’t.” –Audre Lorde
Want to do your part in helping women around the world? Donate here: http://donate.worldvision.org/ways-to-give/by-category/girls-women