Women's Equality Day

August 26

August 26 of each year is designated in the United States as Women's Equality Day. Instituted by Rep. Bella Abzug and first established in 1971, the date commemorates the passage of the 19th Amendment, the Woman Suffrage Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which gave U.S. women full voting rights in 1920.

What is suffrage?

Suffrage is the right to vote in a political election. Prior to the 19th Amendment in 1920, women in the United States did not have the right to vote. Hence, someone who peacefully campaigned for equal rights for women was known as a suffragist.

The development of the 19th century suffragist movement can be seen to begin when women began to be able to pray aloud in church. It also grew out of the Abolitionist (anti-slavery) movement. Suffragism and Abolitionism had a close and complicated history.   

Many suffragist women political and intellectual leaders came out of the Abolitionist (anti-slavery) movement, as they were allowed to speak publicly in these circles in the 1830s.

1838 | Sarah Grimké Letters on the Equality of the Sexes and the Condition of Woman published in newspapers 

The Grimké Sisters were daughters of a South Carolina slave holder, and the first American female advocates of the end of slavery and women's rights

Sarah found slavery intolerable. At age 26, she spent a year in Philadelphia with like-minded Quakers. Quakers allowed women to preach and speak, and also believed in ending slavery. Quakers were a significant part of the anti-slavery movement. Sarah soon became a Quaker and Angelina joined her.

Sarah joined the American Anti-Slavery Society (AASS) , which was made up of blacks and whites. She and Angelina spoke out about slavery but were criticized harshly by those who believe women should not speak publicly. 

In response, Sarah Grimké published a series of letters titled Letters on the Equality of the Sexes, and the Condition of Woman. Considered ahead of her time in many ways, Sarah argued women have a natural right to speak out on moral causes, penning the first complete argument for women's right to vote in her century.

Sarah Grimke (1792-1873) and Angelina Grimke (1805-1879)

By: Leah from Wallingford

A hero essay on the Grimké sisters.

1845 | Margaret Fullers Writes the Influential "Woman in the Nineteenth Century"

Margaret Fuller (1810-1850)

By: James from Shrewsbury

Margaret Fuller wrote Woman in the Nineteenth Century in 1845, another early major feminist work in the United States. Suffragist Susan B. Anthony credited her as a great influence.

1848 | The Seneca Falls Convention 

Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton organize the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848

Lucretia Mott was a powerful orator, and drew crowds; Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Mary Ann M'Clintock were more of the behind-the-scenes organizers of the first convention devoted to women's rights.

Mott wrote a "Declaration of Sentiments" based on the Declaration of Independence, and a resolution to fight for women's causes--which controversially included the women's right to vote. As we will see, Frederick Douglass played a key role in ensuring women's right to vote remained in the resolution.

Lucretia Mott (1793-1880)

By: hailey pantoja

"Eight years later in Seneca Falls, New York, Mott and Stanton, along with Mott's younger sister, Martha Coffin Wright, fulfilled the pledge they had made to each other in London and held the first woman's rights convention in America.”

Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902)

By: Kerri from Fredericksburg
Elizabeth Cady Stanton met Susan B. Anthony, another Woman’s Rights Activist, and they became close friends and worked as a team, to change the world for women. In 1848, with the help of Stanton and Anthony, the Married Woman’s Property Act of New York was passed. This act allowed women to be able to have custody of their children, hold property, make contracts, keep their own earnings and inheritance, and sue in court.

Frederick Douglass speaks for women's rights at the Seneca Falls Convention and is a lifelong suffragist

Frederick Douglass, the abolitionist, stood up and spoke for women's right to vote at the convention as it was being debated. Douglass's said powerfully he could not stand for the right of black men to vote and deny the vote to half the world. Thus, he played a key part in the convention adopting the resolution to add women's suffrage to its mission. 

Douglass was a lifelong suffragist and was attending a suffragist convention with Susan B. Anthony on the last day of his life.


The Nature of Remarkable People - An Analysis of Frederick Douglass (1818-1895)

By: Leo Zimmer

Douglass would, after the trials he and the other slaves faced, go on to help with another cause which dealt with the suppression of rights: the Women's Suffrage Movement. He saw in the case of women's rights a similar kind of suppression of rights that he and the other former slaves had in their lives and realized that they too would need equal to fully achieve their rights.

The Seneca Falls Convention was an historical turning point, marking the beginning of a national movement for women's rights in the United States. 

Suffragists continued to challenge the cultural ideas of a woman's role in society and the family, while lobbying the US government to enshrine women's rights in law. 

1850 | First National Women's Rights Convention

1850 | Lucy Stone helped to organize the first national Women's Rights Convention

The first woman graduate from Oberlin College, where she managed to get equal pay for equal work with men, Lucy Stone was famous for her tremendous powers as an orator. Contemporaries say she had a voice "like a silver bell."

Lucy Stone (1818-1893)

By: Jacqueline from Ventura
Lucy Stone was a pioneer for womens rights.

1850 | Sojourner Truth speaks at the first National Women's Rights Convention

In 1851, Sojourner Truth, a powerful orator, gave one her most famous speeches at the National Women's Conference in Akron, Ohio. The speech is known as "Ain't I a Woman?" However, the "Ain't I" was apparently a rewritten version of her speech in an American vernacular, because Truth's first language was Dutch. Read more about her impactful life below.

Sojourner Truth

By: Nancy Nickerson
Sojourner Truth born into slavery, worked for the freedom of all.

1850 - A Lifelong Friendship Begins

1850 | Susan B. Anthony meets Lucretia Mott and they become lifelong friends, who fight together for women's rights

Anthony had read the pamphet from the first National Women's Rights Convention organized by Lucretia Mott. The pamplhet convinced her to become a suffragist.

Anthony and Mott organized conventions, and started many organizations, fighting their entire lives against slavery and for women's suffrage.

Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906)

By: Julie Odano

Susan B. Anthony was a leading suffragist. With her friend Lucretia Mott, she co-founded the  Women's Loyal National League,  American Equal Rights Association, National Woman Suffrage Association (which became the  National American Woman Suffrage Association).

Lucretia Mott

By: Joseph Kyle (1815 - 1863)

Portrait of Lucretia Mott

Harriet Tubman

Harriet Tubman (1822-1913)

By: Madison from San Diego

Best known as an abolitionist, Harriet Tubman spent the later part of her life fighting for women's rights with Susan B. Anthony, touring cities and speaking about women's rights.

1866 | Frances Ellen Watkins Harper demands the right to vote for black women

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper (1825-1911)

By: Geeta Malik

Frances Ellen Watkins was a prolific author, poet, abolitionist and suffragist. In 1866, at the National Women's Rights Convention, she demanded equal rights for all, including Black women. She helped found the National Association of Colored Women

1869 | Victoria Woodhull is the first woman to petition in front of Congress

Victoria Woodhull

By: Barbara Goldsmith<br><br><h5> Permission to reprint this...

Victoria Woodhull was the first women to petition before Congress for women's right to vote, and the first woman to run for President of the U.S.

1869 | Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton create the National Woman Suffrage Association

In 1869, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton create the National Woman Suffrage Association to amend the Constitution and guarantee women’s right to vote.

1878 | The 19th Amendment is introduced in Congress

The 19th Amendment guaranteeing women the right to vote was introduced into Congress in 1878 by Congressman Arthur Sargent. It was nicknamed the "Anthony Amendment," after suffragist Susan B. Anthony.

Susan B Anthony

By: Robert Shetterly

"The Doldrums" - 30 Years Before the Introduction of the 19th Amendment and Its Ratification

The thirty year period between the introduction of the 19th Amendment into Congress in 1878, and its ratification in 1920, is called "the doldrums." Suffragists continued to lobby Congress, and new tactics like protests and boycotts were used.

1890 | National American Woman Suffragist Association is formed

In 1890, the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA) and the American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA) merged into the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA). NAWSA played an instrumental role in the passage of the 19th Amendment. Susan B. Anthony was president until 1900.

Today it is known as the League of Women Voters.

1900 | Carrie Chapman Catt becomes President of the NAWSA

Catharine C. Catt was inarguably one of the most important leaders of the suffragist movement but has a marred legacy

A skilled organizer and leader, she gave speeches and mobilized voters and recruited a million volunteers. She led a state by state strategy to ratify the 19th Amendment. However, her legacy is marred by her statement supporting white supremacy in order to convince southern states to ratify the amendment, which was rightly criticized in her time and after. 

Carrie Chapman Catt

By: Annika from Eden Prairie

Carrie Chapman Catt played a major role in the ratification of the 19th Amendment. She was criticized by her peers and by historical critics for making a statement supporting white supremacy in order to convince southern states to support the amendment.

1916 | The National Women's Party is Established

1916 | Lucy Burns and Alice Paul establish the National Woman's Party (NWP) in 1916

Burns and Paul met in England and become lifelong friends, fighting for women's rights. They had disagreements with the NAWSA, and created their own party.

The National Women's Party was considered a more radical suffragist group. They wanted to bring the militant tactics of the British suffragettes to the US by staging protests, rather than just petitioning Congress to pass the 19th Amendment.

Alice Paul (1885-1977)

By: Emma from San Diego

Alice Paul was a suffragist and leader for the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution, which granted women the right to vote. She picketted the White House and organized boycotts.

Lucy Burns (1879-1966)

By: Dominique Canlas from Brea
Lucy Burns had spent more time in prison then any other women's activist at the time. Burns was ridiculed and yelled at because of her actions, but she stayed firm to her beliefs and ignored all the negativity.

Inez Milholland Boissevain was an iconic member of the National Women's Party

Inez Milholland Boissevain

By: unknown

Dressed like Joan of Arc on a white horse, Inez Milholland Boissevain, a New York attorney, led a group of women all dressed in white. Here she is on horseback at the Women's Equality March in Washington D.C., 1913

Inez Milholland ~ Forward into Light

This short documentary is a window into the Women's Suffrage Movement through the sacrifice of an American Amazon who will inspire today’s woman as much as she did 100 years ago.

1917 | Jeanette Rankin Opens the first House Debate on Women's Right to Vote

Jeanette Rankin, first US Congresswoman

Rankin was part of the successful effort to give women the right to vote in her home state of Montana, which was passed in 1914. In 1917, when she became a member of Congress, she helped create the Committee on Woman Suffrage and was on the special committee. This committee reported out the 19th Amendment for women's suffrage. Rankin was able to get this on the House Floor for a debate in 1918, the first time it was ever debated. It did not pass, however, until 1920.

Jeannette Rankin

By: Sriya Mupparaju

Jeanette Rankin, the first Congresswoman, fought for suffrage, equal pay, child welfare, laws to protect working women, and birth control and introduced the first debate on unrestricted voting rights to women. 

Votes For Women - Jeannette Rankin

By: unknown photographer


Jeannette Rankin (1880 - 1973)

By: Robert Shetterly
Jeannette Rankin was the first woman to serve in the U.S. Congress. She helped pass the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote, and was a committed pacifist.

1920 | Ratification of the 19th Amendment

1920 | Adoption of the 19th Amendment

The 19th Amendment was adopted on August 18, 1920 and stated: 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.

1970 | National Women's Equality Day is Established to Commemorate the Ratification of the 19th Amendment

1971 | Rep. Bella Abzug establishes Women's Equality Day 

Abzug was a leader of the Second Wave Feminist movement that started in the 1960s. As a Congresswoman, she established Women's Equality Day. Women's Equality Day commemorates the passage of the 19th Amendment -- the Woman Suffrage Amendment to the U.S. Constitution --  on August 26, 1920, which gave U.S. women full voting rights.

Bella Abzug (1920-1988)

By: Kruti from New Jersey

Bella Abzug was a New York Congresswoman who fought for women's rights and instituted Women's Equality Day.

Elizabeth Stanton, Carrie C. Catt, Lucretia Mott Stamp

By: United States Post Office

This 1948 stamp was issued on the 100th anniversary of the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention, and shows (L-R) Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Carrie Chapman Catt, and Lucretia Mott.

Additional Reading from the MY HERO Library

Brighter Coming Day: A Frances Ellen Watkins Harper Reader

By: Frances Smith Foster (Editor), Frances Ellen Watkins Har...
Frances Ellen Watkins Harper was the best known a...

Sojourner Truth: Ain''t I a Woman?

By: Patricia C. McKissack, With Fredrick L. McKissack
Synopsis In 1797, a slave named Isabe...

The Woman Who Ran for President: The Many Lives of Victoria Woodhull

By: Lois Beachy Underhill, Gloria Steinem (Introduction)
From the Publisher This biography of ...

Other Powers: The Age of Suffrage, Spiritualism, and the Scandalous Victoria Woodhull

By: Barbara Goldsmith
From the Publisher This is history at...

Not for Ourselves Alone: The Story of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony

By: Geoffrey C. Ward, Ken Burns
From the Publisher Elizabeth Cady Sta...

Susan B. Anthony: Champion of Women''s Rights (Childhood of Famous Americans Series.)

By: Helen Albee Monsell
Annotation Focuses on the childhood o...

Failure Is Impossible: Susan B. Anthony in Her Own Words

By: Lynn Sherr
Synopsis Juxtaposed with contemporary...

Herstory: Women Who Changed the World

By: Ruth Ashby (Editor), Deborah Gore Ohrn (Editor), Gloria ...
Synopsis Philosopher, mathematician, ...


2018 Women's History Month
Credit: Public Domain

Organizer created on 8/16/2012 5:20:48 PM by Becky Miller

Last edited 1/11/2019 11:19:17 PM by Anthony Pouw