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Women’s Equality Day – National Women’s History Alliance
Women’s Equality Day is celebrated in the United States on August 26 to commemorate the 1920 adoption of the Nineteenth Amendment (Amendment XIX) to the United States Constitution, which prohibits the states and the federal government from denying the right to vote to citizens of the United States on the basis of sex. It was first celebrated in 1972, designated by Congress in 1973, and is proclaimed each year by the United States President.
The date was chosen to commemorate the day in 1920 when Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby signed the proclamation granting American women the constitutional right to vote. In 1971, following the 1970 nationwide Women’s Strike for Equality, and again in 1973, as the battles over the Equal Rights Amendment continued, Congresswoman Bella Abzug of New York introduced a resolution to designate August 26 as Women’s Equality Day
In 1972, President Richard Nixon issued Proclamation 4147, which designated August 26, 1972, as “Women’s Rights Day” and was the first official proclamation of Women’s Equality Day. On August 16, 1973, Congress approved H.J. Res. 52, which stated that August 26 would be designated as Women’s Equality Day and that “the President is authorized and requested to issue a proclamation in commemoration of that day in 1920 on which the women in America were first guaranteed the right to vote”. The same day, President Nixon issued Proclamation 4236 for Women’s Equality Day, which began, in part: “The struggle for women’s suffrage, however, was only the first step toward full and equal participation of women in our Nation’s life. In recent years, we have made other giant strides by attacking sex discrimination through our laws and by paving new avenues to equal economic opportunity for women. Today, in virtually every sector of our society, women are making important contributions to the quality of American life. And yet, much still remains to be done”.
As of 2018, every president since Richard Nixon has issued a proclamation designating August 26 as Women’s Equality Day. On August 25, 2016, President Obama’s Proclamation read, in part: “Today, as we celebrate the anniversary of this hard-won achievement and pay tribute to the trailblazers and suffragists who moved us closer to a more just and prosperous future, we resolve to protect this constitutional right and pledge to continue fighting for equality for women and girls”.