By, Melissa Garcia
When it comes to significant moments in our brief history as a country, one of the most exciting is the amendment that was passed 100 years ago, today! Women’s Equality Day commemorates the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, granting the right to women to vote in 1920. The amendment was first introduced in 1878. In 1971, the U.S. Congress designated August 26th as Women’s Equality Day.
The women who advocated for the adoption of the Nineteenth Amendment were an essential part of the broader women’s rights equality movement throughout the past century including Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Stanton, and Jeannette Rankin, among many others. In this article, we will be covering the stories of four women who have also made significant contributions in the advancement of women’s rights more recently.
We’ll start with Gloria Steinem, the Face of Feminism. Next is a different view from the perspective of Barbara Jordan. Then, we'll take a look at how Michelle Obama has contributed to the progression of women empowerment. After this, we'll discuss how the amendment helped catalyze Shirley Chisholm’s campaign. In closing, we’ll provide some ideas of how we too can contribute to the movement.
Gloria Steinem’s desire for equality was ignited by her mother’s dismissing experiences with male doctors. From that moment on, she was determined to make sure she had a voice and used it. She became a journalist, global activist, and co-founded the female-empowering Ms. magazine. She started it with an activist friend, Dorothy Pitman Hughes. Gloria’s efforts even got her recognized as The Face of Feminism in the early 1970s by Esquire. Gloria’s initiative to be heard is an excellent illustration of how all women should use their voices for necessary change.
Barbara Jordan also created change through persistence. She was inspired to get into law after hearing a female Black lawyer, Edith Sampson, speak. Barbara was the first Black woman to be elected to the Texas State Senate. She didn’t stop there – she became the first Black woman to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives from a Southern state and became the first Black woman to deliver the keynote address at the Democratic Party National Convention. Her passion for justice for the people earned her the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country’s highest civilian honor, as well as a couple of life-size statues in Austin, Texas, to honor her achievements. Barbara’s persistence is another notable attribute for all women to embody, especially when working towards improving the lives of others.
Michelle Obama’s eagerness and desire to improve others’ lives started as she pursued her undergraduate degree in sociology from Princeton University. Her passion further flourished as she earned her Juris Doctorate from Harvard Law School. There she felt she was able to be “both brilliant and Black.” Her caring efforts with the Let Girls Learn initiative helped empower girls worldwide to stay in school, along with the Reach Higher initiative that empowers all children to educate themselves beyond a high school diploma. She has been a true inspiration for girls and women alike. Her becoming our first Black First Lady was a prime representation of the famous saying, “behind every great man is a great woman.” Michelle has been an outstanding symbol of how women can improve the lives of those around them.
Shirley Chisholm was inspired to create change during her seven terms in the U.S. House of Representatives as the first Black woman in Congress. Her life and congressional experiences championed her to become the first Black woman to pursue the United States’ presidential nomination in 1972. Her motto was “Unbossed and Unbought,” which represented her advocacy for women and minorities. She once stated, “I hope if I am remembered, it will finally be for what I have done, not for what I happen to be. And I hope that my having made it, the hard way, can be some kind of inspiration, particularly to women.” Shirley, along with the previously mentioned women, is an impressive exemplification of how great women can aspire to be when we challenge the boundaries.
Inspiration comes during various times and experiences in life. Although Gloria, Barbara, and Michelle did not directly advocate for the Nineteenth amendment as Shirley was able to, they represent why the amendment was transformational in nature, and inspired the collective actions of those empowered by it. We too have the capability of creating such change. We can all take action by voting and educating ourselves like the women before us have. As the saying goes, “Knowledge is Power,” and the more educated we are, the more significant the change we can create.