Thursday, August 26, 2010

Women's Equality Day

When I first mentioned that "Women's Equality Day" was coming up on August 26th, a few of my friends rightly noted that one can't just fight for women's equality on only one day.  It's an issue that will always be with us until and unless such equality is achieved.  I agree wholeheartedly with this opinion.

Even so, it is appropriate that a day exists to especially remember that this is an issue that needs continued attention.  August 26th was chosen because it is the anniversary of the signing of the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which reads:
The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.  Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
I think it's important to note that, although the 19th Amendment is often referred to as having "given women the right to vote," the language of the Amendment itself doesn't talk about "giving" rights, but rather it says that those rights (assumed to be pre-existent) "shall not be denied or abridged."  A right should be understood to be inherent.  Otherwise it's just a privilege.

Now, there is a proper school of thought as to whether or not voting is a "right" or a "privilege."  I'm not looking to get into that here.  I am asserting that if it's a right for anyone, it should be a right for all.  Although a number of states had already granted full or partial suffrage to women by this time, the 19th Amendment finally recognized that for the United States as a whole in 1920 (For those who care, the 19th Amendment was ratified about a week earlier, on August 18th.  The signing date is simply when that adoption was certified by the then-Secretary of State).

Obviously, passage of the 19th Amendment didn't come easily.  The names of Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton have passed into legend on account of the struggles they faced in rallying public opinion to their cause, and both passed away before seeing their dream of women's suffrage become a reality.  And a number of states not only voted against the ratification of the Amendment back in 1919 and 1920, but many didn't come back around to vote in favor of it until many, many years after it had already become the law of the land (the final state to do so, incidentally, was Mississippi in 1984.  Note that Alaska and Hawaii, both having become states well after the Amendment was part of the Constitution, have never had to vote on the Amendment at all).

Of course, suffrage is but one element of the larger struggle for women's equality.  In honor of this event, a number of blogs will be devoting some time today to discuss the issue in various ways.   For my part, I am doing a special one-day promotion on Women's Speaking Justified.  Today only, you can download the e-book for free!  No money required, just follow the on-screen instructions at Lulu.  If you would prefer the physical version, the price on that is reduced, too (plus, you might be able to find a code through RetailMeNot that you can use at Lulu.com and get a lower price, but that's outside of my control.  I think "BACKTOSCHOOL" for 20% off should work.).  This offer is only good today, August 26, 2010.  Prices will return to normal afterward (although the links will remain live, especially that RetailMeNot link, so you might still be able to get a good deal).

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