In August of 1920, a landmark was achieved: the 19th amendment was passed, asserting that no individual shall have their right to vote denied on the basis of sex, granting women across the country the right to vote. Years later, in 1976, August 26th was declared Women’s Equality Day, to celebrate the hard work of women everywhere fighting for their rights. Women throughout the area shared their thoughts about the day with Williamson Forward.
Celebrating the Women of Today and Yesterday
For Williamson Forward Local Coordinator and GFWC-WV Williamson Woman’s Club President Chris Dotson Women’s Equality Day is really about all of the work that occurred before the right to vote was achieved, and all the work women have continued to do since. “While the signing of the 19th Amendment was a major victory for many women, the work continued to secure voting rights for all women, as well as equal pay and opportunities in the workforce, and many other rights.” She continues, “This day is a wonderful time to celebrate not only the leaders of the past and those that are famous, but it’s time to celebrate the strong women in our own lives that continue to work to ensure all women are afforded equal rights and opportunities.”
Gail Hall, a retired professor from Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College, also views the day as a chance to celebrate those who fought for women to be where they are today. “As a female, I feel much is owed to those ladies- and gentlemen- who worked so diligently to give us equality,” she says, “They are deserving of a day of special recognition.” She also sees the day as a reminder of what we still have to fight for. “The struggle has been hard, and it still isn’t where it should be. Females are still being discriminated against...we have miles to go to bring opportunities for females to the level that males enjoy!”
Remembering to Keep Fighting
Teresa McCune , former Mingo County Chief Public Defender, also views the day as an important reminder for women today. “It’s scary how things so hard fought for can be taken away so easily,” she says, “and if young women don’t realize how hard the fight was, I fear they will not jealously guard their rights.” Despite this, Teresa sees how far women have come, and hopes that they will continue to advance and protect their rights. “As late as 1970, when I graduated from high school...women couldn’t serve on juries in many states, have credit cards in their own names if they were married, go to military academies, complain about being discriminated against on the job for being pregnant, and, most horrifically, men could rape their wives with no consequences. Only 50 years ago!” She is grateful for the women who fought the sexism they faced, and helped women like her live life how they wanted. “I’m grateful for the women before me,” she says.
Agents for Progress
Owner of the Tug Valley Inn and member of the Tug Valley Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, Leigh Ann Ray, also regards this as a day to acknowledge the fight of women before. “If not for the strong women who fought for equality 100 years ago, neither I nor any other woman would have the opportunity to be strong and independent,” she says. “We owe so much to those women who stood strong and fought so we could have the opportunities we do, and we still have work to do, like equal pay for equal work, and not letting the #metoo movement fall by the wayside, but I am so grateful for the pioneers who forged the way.”
Dana Wright, a longtime member and former president of the GFWC-WV Williamson Women’s Club, sees it as an important part of the USA recognizing women’s independence and wisdom. “As a woman, this day represents our nation’s acknowledgement of the value of the intelligence and capabilities of women to be agents for progress.”
Celebrating Women’s Equality Day
If you’re looking to celebrate Women’s Equality Day, there are plenty of ways to do so. Why not make a donation to a women’s recovery shelter such as the Tug Valley Recovery Shelter or a women’s-centered charity to help those who are more disadvantaged? You could also check out some history websites online to brush up on the history of women’s rights. The National Women’s History Alliance has a list of educational resources for those looking to learn more about the fight for women’s right to vote.
Happy Women’s Equality Day & Keep Up The Fight!