August Monthly Message: Women’s Equality Day
The Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibited the United States from denying the right to vote to U.S. citizens on the basis of sex, in result granting women the right to vote. This amendment passed Congress June 4, 1919, and ratified on August 18, 1920. However, when a constitutional amendment is ratified, it is not official until it is certified by a government official. On August 26, 1920, Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby signed a proclamation ending this decades-long fight in the United States. In result, we now celebrate Women’s Equality Day on August 26th.
Although millions of women were able to exercise the right to vote after the ratification of the 19th amendment, this was a privilege only afforded to white women. Women of color, who also played a significant role in the complicated suffrage movement, were still denied those same rights until the Voting Rights Act passed 45 years later. Women of color faced discrimination and violence that actively kept them from the voting polls. Today, our country continues to fail to guarantee that each and every American has access to cast their ballots on election day with some states using policy and procedures that overwhelmingly restricts this fundamental right, particularly from Black, Indigenous, immigrant, low-income, disabled, and LGBTQ+ women.
It is imperative to understand that without racial equality there cannot truly be gender equality. Here at YWCA El Paso del Norte Region we celebrate women like Dorothy Height who worked relentlessly at YWCA, and pushed to desegregate all levels of the organization. Despite the gender discrimination she faced during the civil rights movement, Height remained diligent as she acted as the voice amongst her male counterparts fighting for women’s rights, education, and childcare. Every day we strive to continue her work in programs such as The Sara McKnight Transitional Living Center, where we aim to bridge successful independent living for women who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.
Advocacy of women’s rights are important now more than ever after recent Supreme Court’s decisions. As we celebrate 103 years of the 19th Amendment, we must remain steadfast in our fight for true equality. We must remember the only place in society where everyone is truly equal without the burden of systemic privilege is the voting booth. Let’s not fall for the idea that each vote does not count, that rhetoric comes from those who want to restrict our voices. Let’s not forget the courage and resiliency that came with bringing Women’s Equality Day to fruition.
To learn more about expanding voter access in our community click here for resources from The League of Women Voters of El Paso.