In 2004, for the first time, President George W. Bush declared August 26 as Women's Equality Day in the United States, bulding on the awareness created by New York Representative Bella Abzug who was responsible for a 1971 resolution on Women's equality. Gender Equality had been achieved in 1920 with the enactment and subsequent ratification by a majority of the States of the 19th Constitutional Ammendment that secured women's right to vote.
Passage of this amendment was a struggle whose origins were voiced by Abigail Adams, wife and partner of John Adams in a March 31, 1776 letter to her husband in which she addressed women who were fighting for American's independence alongside men.
"...Remember the ladies..." she pleaded before adding a prescient thought. "If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation."
The 14th Amendment had given the right to vote to all male citizens in 1868; and by 1870, the 15th Amendment granted black men voting rights but women remained excluded, and those who did try to
vote were often arrested. It took 72 years after Abigail Adams expressed her opinions for her words to become a reality with the 1848 landmark Seneca Falls, New York, meeting that culminated in the first formal demand for women's right to vote.
The road to Women's Suffrage was long and arduous and required a sustained and organized effort of women and men throughout the country. Publicity for the movement began on a grand scale with an
enormous parade in the nation's capital in 1913 to elevate the issue to one of national importance. And it did, but in ways the organizers hadn't imagined.
Tens of thousands of spectators lined the streets to view 8,000 marchers, 20 floats, four mounted brigades and nine bands. The ruckus and injuries that took place during the event turned the march into a national news story and a concentrated effort that lasted another seven years, generated congressional hearings, and required hard-won state-by- state ratification votes before the Nineteenth Amendment was finally passed in 1920.
Well before 1913, however, several states had adopted women's suffrage: New Jersey in 1797, Kentucky granted widows limited voting rights in 1838, Wyoming in 1890, Colorado in 1893, and Utah
and Idaho in 1896. But 36 states were needed for ratification in an era where convention regarded as "unnatural and shocking" the idea that women would demand equal rights.
Susan B Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton are rightly remembered for their historic leadership in the movement. But many others joined them, a number of whom also assumed leadership roles. They
endured immense hardships, including imprisonment, and fought with determination and persistence to ensure ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment.
On August 18, 1920, Tennessee, as the 36th state, had the deciding vote. It was cast by a young legislator who, as he hesitated, was admonished by his mother to do the right thing and "put the 'rat' in ratification." Finally, women's right to vote was secured by Amendment on August 26, 1920.
When it comes to civic duty, women have come a long way in achieving parity with men. However, they are yet to realize "equal pay for equal work," proving that even in the 21st Century reaching parity remains a long and arduous struggle.
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