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August Has Women’s Equality Day

August 26 is Women’s Equality Day in the United States, commemorating the 19th amendment to the Constitution that gave women the right to vote.

While all male citizens have been allowed to vote since 1868, and voting rights were extended to any American citizen regardless of their race, color, or whether they used to be a slave, with the 15th amendment in 1870, women fought for many years to be able to get an equal say in government elections. It was illegal for women to vote in most states, and women who tried to cast their votes under the 15th amendment during the elections were often arrested.

In 1869 Susan B. Anthony founded the National Woman Suffrage Association, but it wasn’t until 1886 that they got Congress to go over the amendment to give women the right to vote, which was denied. It took another 34 years before the Suffragettes got the amendment to Congress again, which this time was aided by some new states that had entered the Union and had equal rights for women in their own constitution. Women took to the streets to protest for their rights, and in May 1919 the majority of Congress voted for the amendment to be added to the Constitution.

On August 16, 1973, Congress officially approved the designation of August 26 as Women’s Equality Day, stating that the President is required to issue an annual proclamation to commemorate August 26 as the day that women won the right to vote. Every President since Richard Nixon has issued a proclamation designating August 26 as Women’s Equality Day.

An important way to show support for women is by volunteering at women shelters, signing petitions for women’s rights, or joining the many organizations that are continuing the fight for equal rights for women. Sadly, that mission remains unfulfilled. Women disproportionately suffer from discrimination in employment and in housing and from sexual and other forms of harassment and violence.