August 26 marks Women’s Equality Day, which remembers the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. One-hundred and forty-three years after the U.S. was founded, the right to vote was no longer limited by gender.
Today, #WomensEqualityDay has been trending on Twitter. Although it celebrates the day women were finally granted the right to vote, it reminds us that there is still so much to fight for.
Here is a look at Women’s Equality Day.
1. Women’s Equality Day Was First Recognized by Congress in 1971 & Every President Since Has Issued a Presidential Proclamation
Technically, Women’s Equality Day is not an official U.S. holiday, but it has been recognized by Congress since 1971, notes Fortune. That year, 50,000 women marched in New York City for the Women’s Strike For Equality March. The late Bella Abzug, then representing New York in the House, introduced a joint resolution.
The law was passed, but it only gives the President authority to issue a proclamation. It didn’t make it a federal holiday.
Every president since Richard Nixon has followed through with the proclamation. President Donald Trump issued his proclamation on August 25.
“My Administration is committed to fostering an economy where all women can succeed and thrive,” Trump’s proclamation reads. “We must prioritize the needs of working mothers and families, including access to affordable childcare. Therefore, for the first time in the history of this country, my budget proposes a national paid family leave program. Our working families must be able to provide and care for their children without fear of financial insolvency, to strengthen our communities and drive a booming economy.”
2. Over 3,000 Women Ran for Elected Office in the 50 Years Before Women Got the Right to Vote
Although women were not allowed to vote, there was nothing stopping them from running for office. According to Her Hat Was In The Ring, a database created by Dr. Wendy E. Chmielewski, Dr. Jill Norgren and Dr. Kristen Gwinn-Becker, 3,586 women ran in 4,927 campaigns before women got the right to vote in 1920. The database provides a fill list of all these women, as well as short biographies for each of them. The researchers believe that over 4,000 women ran for office and they hope to catalog them all.
The database shows that women ran for just about every office imaginable, from town sheriff to state treasurer to judge to President before they could vote.
According to their research, the first women elected to office in the U.S. were Marietta Patrick and Lydia Hall. They were both elected to the Ashfield, Massachusetts School Board in 1855.
3. Jeannette Pickering Rankin Became the First Woman Member of Congress in 1916
The first woman elected to Congress was elected four years before women got the right to vote. Jeannette Pickering Rankin (1880-1973) was elected to represent one of Montana’s two at-large districts. To date, she remains the only woman to represent the state in Congress.
While in Congress, she voted against the U.S. joining World War I and supported prohibition. She also fought for child protection legislation. During her campaign, she pushed issues important to women’s rights, but also understood the need to support local labor and farming issues.
Rankin only served two terms, but they were separated by over 20 years. After losing re-election in 1918, she returned to Congress in 1941. When she returned, she continued her pursuit of world peace, even becoming the only member of the House to vote against declaring war on Japan after Pearl Harbor. She was not re-elected in 1942.
Rankin died in 1973 at age 92.
4. The First Woman to Run for President Was New York’s Victoria Woodhull in 1872
The first woman to run for U.S. president was Victoria Woodhull in 1872. The Ohio-born Woodhull moved to New York City in 1867 with her sister and the two got the financial backing of the richest man in America at the time, Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt. With his backing, the sisters pushed for women’s rights in their own newspaper and even advocated for sex education.
In 1870, she decided to run for president during the 1872 election. She spoke before the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee about women’s suffrage and hoped to change attitudes towards women. She ran as an “Equal Rights” candiate.
However, some historians do not qualify Woodhull as the first woman to run for President because she was too young at the time. She was born in September 1838, so she would only be 34 at the time of the March 1873 election if she somehow won. The Constitution requires the president to be 35 at the time of the inauguration.
Woodhull died in June 1927 at the age of 88.
5. Susanna Salter, Who Had no Interest in Politics, Became the Country’s First Female Mayor Thanks to a Sexist Prank
The story of Susanna Salter, who became America’s first female mayor in 1887 in Argonia, Kansas, is fascinating. She had no real interest in politics and only served the one-year term. She wasn’t even on the ballot.
As The Daily Beast’s Gil Troy wrote in June 2016, Salter was elected in a sexist prank. Four years earlier, Kansas women got the right to vote. So the women in Argonia, a Quaker village, joined the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), which fought to make alcohol sales illegal. The group was often derided by men as a joke, but was being taken seriously by the mid-1870s.
Strangely, the WCTU’s pro-alcohol rivals wanted to run a WTCU officer for mayor, hoping that WCTU extremists would be the only people to vote for her. This would show that their group was small and didn’t have as much power as they thought. Salter, a wife and mother, was the only WTCU member eligible since she actually lived in Argonia.
This is where the story gets amazing. The morning of election day, Republicans were stunned to see Salter’s name on the ballot. They rushed to her home and asked if she would really serve if she won the election. She said she would and they helped her win. “All right, we will elect you and just show those fellows who framed up this deal a thing or two,” the party leaders told her. So instead of only getting 20 votes as the pranksters expected, she got a two-thirds majority and became the first female mayor in the U.S.
After Salter’s term in office, her family moved to Oklahoma. She lived until 1961, dying at age 101.
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