August 26th has come to be known as “Women’s Equality Day” in commemoration of the passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that provided the right of women to vote. This celebration day was established in 1971 through the work of Representative Bella Abzug and many others. It was signed by President George H.W. Bush.
Suffrage, a term meaning the right to vote, especially in a political election and gained through the democratic process, had its beginning in America in 1848 at Seneca Falls, New York with the efforts of many women and a number of men who believed that this right to vote must be provided women. That was not to be realized for another 72 years. These efforts of countless women and men did not go away. In 1878, a Constitutional Amendment to enable the vote for women was first introduced into the U.S. Congress. Each year thereafter, a similar amendment was offered up – and failed – until 1920. That sentinel event some 42 years after the Amendment was first introduced was finally approved in Congress by one vote. That, dear reader, is a Power of the Vote!
Therein was the nascent beginning of a very long journey that has yet to offer realistic and genuine equality for women. Yes, women now have the right to vote. There, however, is much more that must be done.
To define equality is to suggest an ideal of uniformity in treatment and status by those in position to do so. This acknowledgment of the right to equality must often be achieved from the advantaged to the disadvantaged. Such equality has more often proved easier to legislate than to put into the culture and practice of society.
To define inequality is to suggest lack of fair treatment, partiality, disparity in distribution of opportunities, injustice, and denial of freedom to choose. How are these equalities and inequalities expressed in the lives of women in our community today?
Why is it so difficult to enact a Fair Pay Act? The nay-sayers opine, “This is not the right time”. “Our economic system is over-strapped”. “The legislation is too poorly constructed”.
When women are equally paid for equal work, they will have more resources to put into the economy. They will pay more taxes. They will engage better child care services for their children. The standard of living for their children and families will go up. What is not to want about this possibility? Our community and economic infrastructure continue to suffer when there is unequal pay for equal work.
Civil discourse and negotiation in the community are implicit if there is to be equality. The power of unions in those negotiations can be enhanced when women join, participate and expect equality.
There is no equality in the physical, emotional and societal carnage of domestic violence and sexual assault. Why do we permit this? This will surely change when perpetrators decide these actions are not in their best interest. The solutions for this “hydra-headed” monster will be addressed as women find equality in their homes, work places, and society.
Women will realize their equality in our community and society when clinical, preventive and reproductive health care is available and supported without denials, punitive actions and retributions.
Equality does not arrive or stay in place easily. It must be vigilantly worked for, carefully watched over, and prudently maintained. As the 19th Amendment has proved, the right to vote is a magnificent and powerful tool at our disposal. To toss this opportunity aside is to once again allow others to decide for us.
Perhaps we do not vote because we do not know. Perhaps it is because we do not care. Perhaps it is because we do not believe. We can know. We can care. We can believe. We can do better.
Register to vote. Update your residence address. Know where to go to vote. This can easily be done at http://www.VOTE411.org. Each of our votes is too precious to waste.
Equality – there is work to be done.