Sunday, August 26th is Women’s Equality Day, and FJTC invites you to help us celebrate this historic moment in our history. This is a day to remember how far women have come in their quest for social and legal equality, a cornerstone in the ongoing fight for equality and access to justice.

Less than 100 years ago, women were treated as second-class citizens and despite a strong and widespread voice for change, many states still did not recognize women’s right to hold public office or cast a vote. In fact, during the 1920 Presidential election, women were not allowed to vote in 18 of the 48 states. It was only in 1920, when Congress passed the 19th Amendment, that the women’s suffrage movement gained the national platform it needed to succeed.

Before the 19th Amendment

Prior to the 19th Amendment, women were considered inferior to men in every capacity. The law reflected that perception by forbidding women to vote or hold public office. Women rarely received the same education as men and were also unlikely to perform work outside the home. But in the 1800s (thanks to the Civil War), women’s rights slowly began to creep to the forefront of Americans’ minds. More and more women were attending school and receiving advanced degrees and then, in World War War I, women assumed a significant number of jobs when men were called to fight overseas. This shift was the turning point for women’s suffrage and this momentum would eventually lead to passage of the 19th Amendment.

20th Century Achievements

Since achieving women’s suffrage, female Americans have overcome several other important legal obstacles:

  • 1938: The federal minimum wage is born with the Fair Labor Standards Act, wiping out common pay differences between men and women for hourly jobs.
  • 1968: It becomes illegal to place help wanted ads specifying gender.
  • 1974: Equal Credit Opportunity Act passes. Until then, banks required single, widowed, or divorced women to bring a man along to cosign any credit application, regardless of their income. They would also discount the value of those wages when considering how much credit to grant, by as much as 50%.
  • 1978: The Pregnancy Discrimination Act is passed. Until the law was put into effect, women could still legally be dismissed from their jobs for becoming pregnant.
  • 1980: Sexual harassment is first defined by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, although a court had heard the first case in 1977.
  • 1981: The last vestiges of a husband being able to keep a wife in the dark (at least legally) vanish, thanks to Kirchberg v Feenstra. A husband is told he doesn’t have the right to unilaterally take out a second mortgage on property held jointly with his wife.
  • 1993: The Family and Medical Leave Act becomes law.
Ready to Get Involved?

Although we’ve come a long way since the 19th Amendment, there is still much to be done. From equal pay to paid FMLA leave to sexual and domestic violence, gender equality is still very much an issue, and its one that needs your continued support. Remember, by allowing women equal access to civil liberties, we’ve been able to advance progress across all industries including the discovery of DNA which was originally documented by Rosalind Elsie Franklin, an English chemist, and the development of computer software which was first programmed by Grace Hopper, a U.S. Navy Admiral.

We encourage you to take a moment on August 26th to reflect on the importance of true equality and the role of women in society. Use the links below to learn more about the fight for gender equality and to explore ideas for creating your own awareness campaign. We’ve also included some graphics you can use to help spread the word about this important cause.

“Nevertheless, she persisted.”

Important Links

National Women’s History Project

How Women Won The Vote (PDF)

10 Action Ideas for Women’s Equality Day

Social Media Images

To use the images below, just click to see the full size image, and right-click to download.

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