Women’s (In)equality Day | Guest Column

Submitted by Susan Martin, President of the League of Woman Voters of the San Juans.

August 26, the anniversary of the certification of the 19th amendment, is Women’s Equality Day. On that day in 1920, Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the 19th amendment, granting women in the United States the right to vote, making the amendment formally part of the U.S. Constitution.

The ratification was unexpected. Though the Tennessee Senate had voted to ratify, the General Assembly was deadlocked. One woman made the difference. A member of the legislature, Harry Burn, had voted against the amendment twice, in keeping with the views of his white male constituents. He came to the General Assembly chamber poised to vote no again. His mother, Phoebe (also known as Febb), changed his mind, writing to her son “Hurrah, and vote for suffrage, and don’t keep them in doubt.” Her own example countered the anti-suffrage rhetoric of his colleagues, who claimed that the suffragists were trying to “put something over on the good women of Tennessee.”

The Anniversary of the 19th amendment is an event to celebrate. Yet today women’s voting and reproductive rights are under attack, and women are not equal in our democracy. The League of Women Voters of the San Juans (LWVSJ), given this major infringement on liberty for all, is observing Women’s Inequality Day on August 26.

The LWV is demanding three actions to begin to make women truly equal. First, pass voting rights legislation. Voting is a fundamental right, and all Americans must have an equal opportunity to make their voices heard in our democracy. We seek passage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act (JLVRAA) to ensure renewed oversight, accountability, and justice in our democracy. Every voter must be treated fairly at the ballot box and have full access to vote.

Second, add the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to the Constitution. The League has been committed to the ratification of the ERA since it was first passed by Congress in 1972 because inequality hurts everyone. In January 2020, enough states had voted to ratify the ERA to make it part of the Constitution. Congress had placed a deadline on ratification, however, nullifying the will of the people. Now Congress must remove its ratification timeline so the ERA becomes part of the Constitution.

Third, restore reproductive freedom to women and those who can become pregnant. At its national conference in June, Leagues from around the country approved a resolution written by LWVSJ and introduced by the Washington State League. The resolution decried the Supreme Court’s far-reaching decision to end the federal right to an abortion and to undermine the right to privacy: “Be it resolved that the LWVUS supports the rights of women and those who can become pregnant to self-determination related to, and including, but not limited to bodily

autonomy, privacy, reproductive health, and lifestyle choice.” This summer the U.S. Senate failed to pass the “Women’s Health and Protection Act,” which would protect women throughout the country. The League asserts such legislation is vital to equality and well-being of all Americans.

Join us on August 26 in taking a stand and sharing #WomensInequalityDay across your social networks. Women’s equality is long overdue. We may not yet be equal, but we will not be ignored.