The often hat wearing late Representative Bella Abzug (D, NY ’71-’73) turned a phrase that caught on when she declared, “This woman’s place is in the House–the House of Representatives!” She was responsible for the U.S. Congress designating August 26 as “Women’s Equality Day.” It isn’t a big, splashy holiday with greeting cards to go with it, but it is a day worth remembering, perhaps best with a little history and awareness.
The date was selected to commemorate the 1920 passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, granting women the right to vote. It also calls attention to women’s continuing efforts toward full equality.
This is history that is important to remember. Even though women outnumber men in college and graduate schools nationwide, many women still don’t have equal footing in the workplace and what’s also disappointing is that many women don’t often have equal footing at home. Women still do most of the parenting and housework in many households, which creates a career barrier that, thanks to Sheryl Sandberg and others is being discussed and debated. Discussion, debate, deliberation are all good steps toward progress.
There are also cultural boundaries that focus on a woman’s appearance more than her ideas and that’s another issue we need to push to the forefront. See my TED talk that underscores the problem with women’s appearance and the US presidency.
I think it is important for us to remember and honor the women who passionately sought to create equality, not because they’d get to enjoy any of the freedoms in their own lifetime but because they knew we’d get a better shot at equality. Our daughters and granddaughters should have it even better, but only if we remember that we aren’t quite there yet.
It is good to note the women who made remarkable achievements in fields where they had no role models.
So here’s a little “Women’s Equality Day Quiz”:
(answers at the bottom–no peeking):
- Who became the first female Secretary of State of the United States, appointed by President Clinton in 1997?
- Who took over management of Columbia Sportswear Company in the late 1930’s, when it was near bankruptcy, and turned it into the largest American ski apparel company worth $4 billion in 1972?
- Who wrote “The Feminine Mystique” in 1968 and became a leading figure in the Women’s Movement?
- Who ran for US President on Equal Rights Party in 1884 and 1888 and was an American delegate to the first world peace Congress in Paris in 1889?
- Who is considered the first American woman to be ordained by full denominational authority in 1864, and who also campaigned vigorously for full woman suffrage?
- Who was the first African American woman elected to the U.S. Congress and was a founding member of the National Women’s Political Caucus?
- Who was the ecologist writer whose path-breaking book, “Silent Spring” in 1962 initiated the environmental movement?
- Who was the first black woman and the youngest poet laureate in American history when she was appointed in 1993?
- Who was imprisoned and then hanged for her Quaker faith in Boston in 1660, and 400 years later her statue was placed in front of the state House?
- Who became the first woman vice-president candidate on a major political party ticket when selected in 1984? And here’s even a bigger test: encourage the women you know to “go for it” and men be an equal partner at home!
2. Gertrude Boyle
3. Betty Friedan
4. Belva Lockwood
5. Olympia Brown
6. Patsy Mink
7. Rachel Carson
8. Rita Dove
9. Geraldine Ferraro
10. Mary Dyer