Event Celebrates New Brand of Feminism
Special Report - August 26, 2009
Today is “Women’s Equality Day,” which is celebrated on August 26 to commemorate ratification of the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which granted voting rights to women in 1920. The day was established by Congress in 1971 to honor the efforts of the early suffragists in the 19th and 20th centuries, who fought tirelessly to win approval by a minimum of 36 states for a constitutional amendment securing equal voting rights for women.
The women’s suffrage movement began with the first Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, N.Y. in 1848, a full 72 years before the passage of the 19th Amendment. Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony had founded the National Woman Suffrage Association to propel the movement to a successful national effort. The amendment was first introduced to Congress on January 10, 1878. It received final congressional approval in 1919 and took another year to win approval from Tennesseeby a single vote in the state’s legislatureto make it the 36th state to ratify the amendment.
The celebration also commemorates the nationwide “Women’s Strike for Equality” on August 26, 1970 that demanded equal employment opportunities, educational opportunities, and 24- hour child care centers. Betty Friedan and the National Organization of Women (NOW), known today for its work to promote and expand access to abortion in the country, organized the strike to bring national attention to women’s issues. Today’s feminist movement, championed by organizations like NOW and Planned Parenthood, focuses on the numbers and salaries of working women and ever expanding access to abortion.
Today’s brand of feminism has a new and different focus from its predecessors. Marjorie Dannenfelser, chairman of the Susan B. Anthony List, which works to advance the role of pro-life women in the political process, emphasizes the importance early suffragists placed on equality for all through their work in the abolitionist, suffragist, and pro-life movements. “Susan B. Anthony and all of the early suffragists understood very well that you can never authentically expand your rights when you trample on the rights of another class of citizens and in this case it is the unborn child” whose rights are trampled through abortion, according to Dannenfelser. Elizabeth Cady Stanton wrote in 1873 “When we consider that women are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit.”
“The difference [between movements] is the measure of happiness,” says Dannenfelser. The original feminists “did want to be viewed as equal in the eyes of the law, but they kept family life at the center. The modern feminists have looked at how much women make and the bottom line. The measures are very consumer driven rather than what makes a woman happy.” An article released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in January 2009 found that the oft-quoted 20-cent wage gap between men and women is primarily a result of lifestyle choices by women, who largely choose more flexible fields, employers, and hours, and lower risk jobs than men.
Copyright © 2009. North Carolina Family Policy Council. All rights reserved.