• KATYA MILLER

Women’s Equality Day



19th Amendment Celebrates 99 Years!


Lady Freedom, the stately statue atop the U.S. Capitol, continues to stand high on Women’s Equality Day! August 26 commemorates the day in 1920 when the 19th amendment was passed allowing women the right to vote for the very first time: the Constitution of the United States of America 1789 (rev. 1992) — The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

This time next year will mark 100 years since the passing of this landmark amendment! How are we doing? We are better off than 1920 when so many women and men fought to grant women the right to vote. There were many valiant fighters for freedom in the early 1900s who did not live to see this final victory. 


Passed by the United States Congress June 4, 1919, the 19th amendment was ratified on August 18, 1920. Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan were the first states to consent to the amendment. Tennessee was the last state to ratify the amendment on August 18,1920, securing the necessary three-fourths of the U.S. making it part of the Constitution. It barely made it through.


By August 26,1920, Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby certified the ratification and, it is written, this act alone changed the face of the American electorate “forever.” 


Eventually, Florida and Virginia filed in the 1950s (!) Florida, South Carolina, Georgia, Louisiana, and North Carolina ratified between 1969 and 1979. (!!) Mississippi was the last in 1984. Women do have the right to vote, but what about the Equal Rights Amendment?

Congress passed the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) in 1972. It guarantees equal legal rights to all American citizens regardless of gender. But the needed ratification, just like the 19th Amendment, needs that three-fourths approval from the states. In this case, we need 38 states to come through, but we are still shy three states. Close, but no “cigar” as they say. 

Hard to believe in this day and age that in our United States of America, that which was founded on the ideals of justice and equality, there are still many people in many states who do not want the Equal Rights Amendment to pass. Is your state ratified?


The United Nation’s Declaration on December 10, 1948, states: All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights” and that “everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, … birth or other status.


Women’s rights are human rights. Martha W. Griffiths was a member to the U.S. House of Representatives from 1955 to1974. (pictured) During this time she championed the ERA. In her own words, This movement is like a tidal wave. And when it’s passed, men and women both are going to turn into human beings.


One can see Lady Freedom “watching over” Griffiths’s shoulder in the photograph….

Katya Miller’s forthcoming book, Lady Freedom: Heart of a Nation, will tell us much about the woman who “ presides" over the U.S. Capitol. Since 1861, she has seen it all, and heard the unspeakable; however she cannot act alone — she needs US. The “heart of our nation” calls us now.  


Author:

Kristen Farquhar


Photograph:

Martha W. Griffith by Leffler, Warren K

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