At the time of our nation’s founding, and for many, many years after, women were considered the property of their husbands, and had no say in their education, in their personal agency, or in the very “democratically” voted upon laws that kept them so oppressed. In the early twentieth century, these sexist norms finally started to shift when on August 18, 1920 the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified, and women were finally granted the right to vote.
This remarkable date in women’s “herstory” was celebrated earlier this week on Monday when the 19th Amendment turned 94 years old. Incredible suffragists including Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucy Burns, Susan B. Anthony, and Margaret Sanger risked prison, fines, and social stigmatization in order to win the right to vote for women; it’s hard to imagine that women were once denied this right, and it’s important to reflect on the efforts of early feminists. In light of this, and of Women’s Equality Day, which is recognized annually on August 26, this week is a perfect time to examine the progress that the women’s rights movement has paved way for, as well as to take stock of persisting gender inequality.
Birth control, family planning and abortion, workplace equality, rape culture and violence against women are all individual components in a greater social need for feminism today. Some say that women have made great strides towards eliminating gender inequality, but I would argue that there is still a long way to go.
Happily, more prominent male figures seem to be on board with feminism now than ever before. From attorneys like Kendall Coffey who have spoken objectively about issues such as birth control and abortion, to highly visible political satirists such as Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert who have used their public platforms to discuss women’s rights in a no-nonsense way, more men in power are acting as allies for women. Even President Barack Obama has come out in support of women on issues such as wage and workplace inequality; not to mention the countless male celebrities that have even openly consider themselves feminists. Hopefully we will see more men and women rally for gender equality and the need for feminism in our lifetimes.
Despite the fact that gender inequality is still an issue that permeates many industries, social structures, and daily life in America today, it’s almost inconceivable to me that at one point in our nation’s history, women weren’t even regarded as citizens in the eyes of the U.S. government. I am grateful that I am able to vote, and that the ratification of the 19th Constitutional Amendment provided momentum for the women’s rights movement.
Learn more about American suffragists, voting rights, and the 19th Amendment at www.history.com.