On August 26, 1920, the 19th Amendment was officially added to the U.S. Constitution, guaranteeing women the right to vote. Just over 50 years later, this day was designated as Women’s Equality Day and has been observed every year since.
In the first presidential proclamation marking Women’s Equality Day, then-President Richard Nixon urged people “to use this occasion to reflect on the importance of achieving equal rights and opportunities for women and to dedicate themselves anew to that great goal.”
To that end, here are four ways you can heed those words and celebrate Women’s Equality Day this year.
Register to vote (and register others to vote!)
If you are a U.S. citizen, registering to vote is the first step to exercising your constitutionally protected right to vote. State and local elections happen every year, so you’ll want to keep your registration current.
Go to vote.gov to find out how to register in your state and learn other information about voting. If you’ve moved within the state since the last time you voted, you still need to update your voter registration. Every state has different voting laws, so it’s a good idea to double-check your voter registration if you’re unsure at all.
Once you’ve registered to vote, volunteer at a voter registration drive so you can help others participate. The League of Women Voters has state and local chapters across the country, many of which run voter registration drives. You can also participate in National Voter Registration Day, held on the fourth Tuesday of September.
Learn about women leaders of the past and present
Read up on Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, who organized the first women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls, NY, in July 1848. At the convention, delegates adopted the Declaration of Sentiments (modeled after the Declaration of Independence) and several resolutions, including one calling for a woman’s right to vote.
Stanton went on to co-found the National Woman Suffrage Association in 1869 with Susan B. Anthony, who was arrested and fined—but refused to pay—$100 for voting illegally in the 1872 presidential election.
You can also learn about Lucy Stone and Julia Ward Howe, founders of the American Woman Suffrage Association, which supported the 15th Amendment even though it didn’t give women the right to vote. Although Stanton and Anthony had been supportive of abolition and civil rights for African Americans, they opposed the 15th Amendment because it only enfranchised African Americans. The organizations merged in 1890.
The new national suffrage organization, like its predecessors, was still led by white women and often ignored or formally excluded Black women and their concerns. So, educator and activist Mary Church Terrell joined with other Black women leaders to establish the National Association of Colored Women in 1896. Terrell later became a charter member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the first African American woman appointed to a school board.
And then there’s the woman who made Women’s Equality Day happen: New York congresswoman Bella Abzug. Since the resolution was passed in 1973, every president has issued an annual Women’s Equality Day proclamation.
The women named here are far from the only ones who led the fight for women’s rights in the years leading up to and following the 19th Amendment—and many of them fought for more than suffrage. They also fought for racial equality, education reform, police reform, gay rights, and other social justice issues. Their legacy and vision live on today in the women who lead the #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter movements, fight for transgender rights and domestic workers rights, and work to help empower women at the ballot box and beyond.
Visit a women’s museum
You can learn about many of the suffragist leaders at the Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument in Washington, D.C. From 1929 to 1997, the building functioned as the headquarters of the National Woman’s Party, another suffragist organization that broke off from the National American Woman Suffrage Association due to a disagreement over strategy. In 2016, President Barack Obama designated the museum a national monument, making it the first national monument to women’s history.
But you don’t have to be in Washington, D.C., to visit a women’s museum in honor of Women’s Equality Day. Check out the International Women's Air & Space Museum in Cleveland, OH, or the National Susan B. Anthony Museum & House in Rochester, NY.
Want to celebrate Women’s Equality Day abroad? Visit the Florence Nightingale Museum in London, the Vietnamese Women's Museum in Hanoi, and other feminist museums around the globe.
Want to dig into some of this amazing history (and present) from the comfort of your own home? Try exploring a museum’s online collections—and start planning your in-person trip for Women’s Equality Day next year!
Apply for a job where you can work for women’s equality year-round
With more than 120,000 organizations on Idealist.org, the perfect job for you at an organization that focuses on women's issues may literally be at your fingertips.
Use keywords to search for the mission that speaks to you, such as “women’s rights,” “voting rights,” or “equal pay.” Then you can filter by a host of criteria, including job function and professional level.
Or you can start using the filters right away by selecting “women” as the area of focus and then further down the results.
Pro Tip: If you find a job posting that isn’t the right fit but the organization appeals to you, sign up for an Idealist.org email alert to find out when that organization posts new jobs.
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As a nonprofit advocacy professional living in Washington, D.C., Deborah works with groups across the country to educate their communities and lawmakers about public policies that can help low-income residents make ends meet. She is passionate about helping people connect their interests to a cause they believe in and empowering them to take action.