Never underestimate the power of a woman

Women’s Equality Day marks 90 years of empowerment

Thursday was Women’s Equality Day. It marks the date, Aug. 26, 1920, when women won the right to vote after ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It was the culmination of a 72-year effort that started with the world’s first women’s rights convention at Seneca Falls, N.Y., in 1848.

Winning adoption of the 19th Amendment was no easy task. Carrie Chapman Catt, a key leader in the early 1900s, reflected on the political activity suffragettes mounted: “Fifty-six state referendum campaigns; 480 legislative campaigns to get state suffrage amendments submitted; 47 state convention campaigns; 277 state party convention campaigns, 30 national party convention campaigns to get suffrage planks in the party platforms; 19 campaigns with 19 successive Congresses to get the federal amendment submitted.”

In 1971, Women’s Equality Day was established by Congress to celebrate the courage, determination and tenacity of the women who sought equal rights. Until the passage of the 19th Amendment, women could not own property, had no legal claim to the money they earned and had no representative voice in government.

Over the 90 years since the 19th Amendment, many things have changed. Women have used their vote to raise the collective consciousness about women’s and family issues, which have made our country stronger. Minimum wage, eight-hour work days, health standards for dairies, pensions for teachers, professional standards for nurses, environmental awareness and civil rights are just a few of the issues women championed that have improved the quality of life in this nation.

Of course, many issues remain. Women on average still make only 77 cents for every dollar earned by men. Only 15, or 3 percent, of the Fortune 500 CEOs are women; only one of America’s top 40 philanthropists is a woman.

Women are underrepresented in technical fields and no woman has ever served as president; although a woman is Speaker of the House in Congress. And plenty of women serve as governors, judges and legislators and in many other elected and appointed governmental posts. They also have been astronauts and World Cup soccer champions.

Their influence continues to drive improved services and increased opportunities for all residents.

And that’s worth celebrating.