Today is Women’s Equality Day marking the ninetieth anniversary of the Nineteenth Amendment, which gave women the right to vote. It’s not an easy day to honor. Do we celebrate the tremendous work of the suffragettes who fought long and hard for women? Or do we note the irony of an equality day when women still earn, on average, only 77 cents for every dollar a man earns; bang their heads against a glass ceiling; still do the majority of housework and haven’t reached critical mass in Washington?
I say we mark the day by taking action. If we exercise our power as women, we both honor the women who came before us and help advance those who will come after us. Here are six suggestions for celebrating Women’s Equality Day.
1. Vote. The suffragettes fought a long, hard battle in order for women to have the right to vote. If you aren’t already registered, register to vote today, read up on the issues and cast a ballot in the midterm elections. Women are 51 percent of the population and we do make a difference on election day.
2. Run. Better yet, why not run for office? Ladies, it’s great to help candidates and cast a vote. But we are so much more powerful than just phone bankers and sign holders. We need a critical mass of women in elected positions both locally and nationally if we want equal representation. Visit She Should Run, Emerge and The White House Project to learn about campaigning.
3. Speak. At a minimum, let your elected officials know what you expect of them. Call your Senators and tell them we need them to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act and the Healthy Families Act. Tell the White House it’s time to ratify CEDAW, The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, and the Equal Rights Amendment. We’ve waited long enough.
4. Teach. Tell your children about suffragettes like Helen Gardener, Ida Husted Harper and Marjorie Shuler who aren’t in the text books, but should be. These women changed the course of history.
5. Thank the women who are fighting for equality today. Make sure they know their work is appreciated. My sincere thanks to so many women including Gloria Feldt and Jodi Jacobson who stand up for our reproductive rights; Zoe Nicholson who never stops fighting for equality; Marie Wilson, Jehmu Green and Katie Orenstein who teach other women how to use their power; CV Harquail and The Mama Bee who inspire me by how hard they work; Lea Webb and Jill Miller Zimon, who are modeling a new ideal for public servants; @rosiered23 and Cynthia Samuels for giving women a place to read, write and learn.
6. Notice the women who are quietly making a difference in your life (the coworker who negotiated maternity leave, the sole woman on the city council, the boss who stuck her neck out for you) and honor their work by following their lead.
Enjoy the day and feel free to leave a comment with the names of other women we should thank.