Women’s Equality Day has been observed every Aug. 26 since 1971 to commemorate the 19th Amendment, which was passed in 1920, giving women the right to vote.
Since 1971, however, Women’s Equality Day also “calls attention to women’s continuing efforts towards full equality,” according to the National Women’s History Project.
Each year on the date, the President of the United States publishes a proclamation that says:
WHEREAS, the women of the United States have been treated as second-class citizens and have not been entitled the full rights and privileges, public or private, legal or institutional, which are available to male citizens of the United States; and
WHEREAS, the women of the United States have united to assure that these rights and privileges are available to all citizens equally regardless of sex;
WHEREAS, the women of the United States have designated August 26, the anniversary date of the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, as symbol of the continued fight for equal rights: and
WHEREAS, the women of United States are to be commended and supported in their organizations and activities,
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, that August 26 of each year is designated as “Women’s Equality Day,” and the President is authorized and requested to issue a proclamation annually in commemoration of that day in 1920, on which the women of America were first given the right to vote, and that day in 1970, on which a nationwide demonstration for women’s rights took place.
In honor of Women’s Equality Day 2013, here are seven moments worthy of a day that recognize the strides being taken by and for women:
Women’s Equality Day 1 of 8
Rep. Bella Abzug (D-NY), known as a "founding feminist," had Congress designate Aug. 26 as Women's Equality Day in 1971.
The Filibuster Heard ‘Round the World 2 of 8
It doesn't seem as if the women's movement could be advanced by a conversation about shoes, but if the shoes in question helped enable the defeat of a bill severely restricting a woman's right to choose, let's start talking heels.
Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis became a nation-wide name in late June after she spent half a day in pink Mizuno running shoes filibustering one of the strictest anti-abortion laws ever proposed.
"You won't change things unless you are prepared to fight, even if you don't win," Davis told Vogue. "But I do hate losing."
She did lose, eventually, a few weeks later when the bill passed during a special session. But letting women know that "hard things are worth fighting for," her 12-hour stand remains a standout moment for women in 2013. Hope is everywhere, especially when and where it matters most.
Photo credit: Wikipedia
Angelina Jolie’s Double Mastectomy 3 of 8
Angelina Jolie is known for many things, but let's be honest — we wouldn't know about much of any of it if she didn't look the way she does. (Quick — name a movie of hers that you've seen other than Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Yeah, that's what we thought.)
Jolie is famously a mom, humanitarian, director and actress. And she's a bombshell with a capital K-A-B-O-O-M. So when she wrote an editorial in The New York Times in May about how she voluntarily underwent a radical double mastectomy upon discovering she had an 87 percent chance of getting breast cancer because of a defect in her BRCA1 gene, she brought the discussion of preventative health to the forefront — and, against all odds, made it kind of sexy. How? Because when the world's sexiest woman talks about being proactive about women's health issues, the notion of taking care of yourself is just that much more attractive.
"Life comes with many challenges," Jolie wrote in the Times. "The ones that should not scare us are the ones we can take on and take control of."
She made the possibility of having options sexy — even as she talked about losing her breasts. With her sexy fiance Brad Pitt by her side, she let women know that through her diagnosis, surgery and recovery, they found moments to "laugh together" and recalled how it brought them closer. Jolie and Pitt even closer? Sexy, sexy, sexy. Saving women's lives? Sexy and strong. Is there anything sexier than being healthy and empowered?
Photo credit: Wikipedia
Yahoo! Amends Maternity Leave Policy 4 of 8
When Marissa Mayer became CEO of Yahoo! in 2012, there were many who hoped she'd blaze a trail for working moms. Most of those people were disappointed, however. In short order, she took an abbreviated maternity leave, told remote employees to report to work and then had a nursery for her infant son built in her office. To be sure, Mayer's tenure has been full of smoke — but much of it has been coming out of the ears of women feeling burned.
But then Yahoo! went and did something that warmed the hearts of its employees: they rolled out some new and improved benefits for parents. New moms are now entitled to a four-month maternity leave, and adoptive parents and new dads are eligible for two months paid leave. They also get a $500 gift from Yahoo! to be spent on babysitters, house cleaners, toys or baby-related groceries.
While the move was likely to stay competitive with rivals such as Google and Facebook, both of which offer similar incentives to new parents — it still shows that the company values the contributions of women who are also moms and recognizes that a little TLC at a time when their attention is likely to be divided can go a long way towards encouraging them to come back to work and continue to contribute in a meaningful way.
Maybe Mayer doesn't want to be a trendsetter as a female executive, but that doesn't mean she can't still do well by female employees.
Photo credit: Wikipedia
Lean In 5 of 8
As the Chief Operation Officer of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg regularly turns heads for being one of the few women at the top of the notoriously male-top-heavy tech world.
And then in March, Sandberg published her book, Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, in which she proceeded to share personal stories, research and advice with and for other women about how to get their voices heard at work even while men continue to dominate leadership positions.
While not everyone agrees with Sandberg that leaning in is that easy — or desirable — she nevertheless lays out specific strategies for personal growth for women in government and industry who have been previously restricted by a very visible glass ceiling.
Duchess Kate and The Dress 6 of 8
If members of the media ever break an actual sweat, it's when coming up with new ways to comment on the size and shape of a famous mom after she famously becomes a mom. They never miss an excuse to comment on how quickly celebrity moms bounce back (or, even better, don't) to their size negative-zero clothes after giving birth.
It should come as no surprise that the media had a particular interest in the appearance of Duchess Kate after she gave birth to Prince George — after all, this is the boy who will be King of England one day — but perhaps what's surprising is that instead of snickering that she still looked pregnant (although some did that), most applauded Kate for the dress she wore in her first public appearance since giving birth.
The dress showed that most women don't look like runway models in the hours, days and weeks after giving birth. They look like women who have just given birth — a woman who couldn't fit into skinny jeans or a skin-tight tank because her body and uterus are adjusting naturally to having just carried around another human being for nine months. Which makes Duchess Kate all the-more human, and maybe makes other new moms not feel so self-conscious about the fact that their bodies didn't bounce back in a matter of minutes, either.
Photo credit: Pacific Coast News
Royal Line of Succession 7 of 8
When Prince George of Cambridge was born last month to Kate Middleton and Prince William, he became third in line to be King of England — behind his dad and his grandpa.
That in and of itself is significant, but what's even more noteworthy is that if George had been a girl, she also would have been third in line for the throne. That's because Queen Elizabeth approved a change to a 300-year-old law, which originally said that first-born daughters could not succeed the throne if they ended up having younger brothers. All 16 Commonwealth leaders agreed to the change a few months before Prince George's birth.
The British law of male primogeniture was long viewed as outdated and sexist.
Photo credit: iStockphoto
The Rise of Ruth 8 of 8
It is men who have historically dominated the Supreme Court of the United States. But in 2013, is it a woman whose voice is rising above the baritone of her fellow justices.
The second female justice ever to appear on the highest bench in the country, Ruth Bader Ginsburg asked the first question upon hearing arguments 37 percent of the time in the most recent term, according to The New York Times.
In a year of monumental Supreme Court opinions, Ginsberg has solidified her position as a champion for women as well as others who have historically been victims of bigotry. This includes the invalidation of a key part of the Voting Rights Act, which Ginsburg said was ludicrous: "Throwing out [the Voting Rights Act] when it has worked and is continuing to work to stop discriminatory changes is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet." There was also the bolstering of same-sex marriage with the decision that gay couples can receive federal benefits and the high court's refusal to decide on the Prop 8 case on California, both of which got support from Ginsburg.
As to whether she rules as a woman, she told USA Today: "Maybe there's a little more empathy. Anybody who has been discriminated against, who comes from a group that's been discriminated against, knows what it's like."
Photo credit: Wikipedia
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