Womens Equality Day is in remembrance of the United States ratifying the 19th Amendment and for the first time in its still burgeoning history granting women (white women) the right to vote in 1920. This was the start of white men slowly granting women autonomy over their own lives. Decades of work culminating in a beginning – the beginning of women having a voice in this country.
The 19th Amendment was less than 100 years old when most people alive today were born, yet people are still astonished that gender discrimination persists. Why? Very few generations of women in this country have had a say in their own lives, much less the development the country and our systems of living.
Since the passing of the 19th Amendment women have marched slowly, steadily, and forcefully toward gaining true equality in the United States and around the world. From the largest mobilization of women and largest single day protest in history during the Women’s March in 2017 to fighting the sexism of school dress codes that detract from the education of young women, the ever-steadfast gender pay gap, and the pink tax, progress is still being found and fought for.
As we observe Women’s Equality Day 2021 it’s pertinent that we reflect on the challenges to women’s equality in the last year and a half. Mothers having to step away from the workforce, impacting frontline workers (who are statistically more likely to be women, and even more likely to be minorities), among the other trials and tribulations that come with a global pandemic and all the other world events. Womens rights in some corners of the globe have been set back 20 years, or more.
In the light of the harsh reality that we have been slogging our way through for so long, we wanted to reflect on how far women have come, the achievements they have made, and the successes they’ve had.
Let me take you back to the Roaring 20’s. The decade of flappers and speakeasys, the world was recovering from the 1918 Flu Pandemic and the ratification of the 19th Amendment.
- Marie Luhring became the first woman in America to become a Truck Designer (Automotive Engineer).
- Activist Alice Paul proposed the Equal Rights Amendment for the first time, 50 years before its passing.
- Edith Wharton became the first woman in America to win a Pulitzer.
- Florence King became the first woman to win a case before the United States Supreme Court.
- Margaret Gorman became the first “Miss America”.
- Rebecca Felton was sworn in as the first female Senator in the United States Congress.
- Gertrude Ederle became the first woman to swim across the English Channel.
- Amelia Earhart became the first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean.
- Genevieve R. Cline became the first woman appointed as a United States Federal Judge.
At the time these feats of grandeur by women across the lines of culture, politics, and sports were thought to be groundbreaking…And they were. But let’s take a look at where we are now, in 2020 & 2021.
Let’s leave behind the partisan politics for just a moment and marvel at the new positions of political power women have reached. It should not be lost on anyone that exactly 100 years after the passage of the 19th amendment, 100 years after the first women ever voted, the United States swore in it is very first female Vice President, Vice President Kamala Harris. On the same day, Dr. Jill Biden became the first woman to hold the post of First Lady with a doctoral degree.
- Maine Senator Susan Collins became the longest-serving Republican woman in United States history.
- Senator Sarah McBride became the highest-ranking openly transgender official when she won was sworn in a member of the Delaware State Senate.
- Senator Cynthia Lummis is the first woman to represent Wyoming in the United States Senate.
- Cori Bush is Missouri’s first black female representative to serve in the United States Congress.
- Marilyn Strickland, Michelle Steel, and Young Kim became the first three Korean American women elected to Congress.
- Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg became the first woman to lie in repose at the Supreme Court Building and the Capitol Building.
These accomplishments pile on top of decades of firsts, hard work, blood, sweat, and tears of the women before us. It’s clear that in the 100 years since women gained the right to vote, they have continued to climb the political ladder on all sides – in an effort to serve and lead their country with a voice equal to that of men.
As with any group however, women are not a monolith. In 2020 & 2021 there were endless accomplishments outside of the DC Beltway as well.
- Billie Elish became the first woman to win all four General Field categories in one ceremony at the Grammys.
- Sarah Fuller became the first women to play in a Power 5 football game.
- Becky Hammon became the first female acting head coach in NBA history.
- Sarah Thomas was the NFL’s first-ever female referee to officiate a Super Bowl.
- Chloe Zhao became the first Asian woman to win a Golden Globe for best director.
- Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala became the first woman and the first African to lead the World Trade Organization.
- Taylor Swift became the first woman to win album of the year three times at the Grammys.
- Beyonce won her 28th Grammy award – more than any woman in history.
- Simone Biles became the only woman to ever attempt – and complete a Yurchenko double pike vault in competition.
- Wally Funk became the oldest person to travel to space, at 82 years old.
- Lee Kiefer became the first-ever American fencer to win an Olympic Gold in individual foil.
These are lengthy cross-cultural lists of women achieving history-defying feats and I am honored to say that I could continue. This is not an exhaustive exhibition of women’s accomplishments, but it is already jaw-droppingly impressive.
As we reflect on these amazing women, lets ensure we make space to reflect not only on how far we’ve come, but road still left to travel and the work ahead of us. We know that our time and place in this world is not perfect, and we all know that there is work to be done – but today, lets reflect on and celebrate every woman out there accomplishing something in her own life and moving the collective forward. Women don’t have to become the highest serving United States Official or do the most backflips to make a difference, but there is no limit on our capacity to hold up and celebrate others, so as we observe Womens Equality Day this year let’s celebrate all women, and whatever accomplishment means to each one of them personally.