WSYM — Although Women’s Equality Day is always an obvious time to commemorate the achievements and hard-fought progress of women’s rights, there’s still more work to be done, say leading groups associated with the cause.
“It’s important to sort of think about this as a moment of celebration but also a recognition that there’s still work to be done,” said Julia Mason, interim chair of the Grand Valley State University Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies Department. “Even though we call this Women’s Equality Day that doesn’t mean that all women everywhere are equal in the same ways, and even when we talk about equal, what do we mean as equal to?”
Women’s Equality Day commemorates the anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote. It’s still to this day the only constitutionally protected women’s right.
“It rectified a wrong; it does give women the right to vote that had been denied to us since the origins of this country,” said Paula Bowman with the League of Women Voters in Michigan. “We were one of the last civilized countries in the world where women did get the right to vote.”
The League of Women Voters shares its founding anniversary with the ratification of the 19th Amendment — both are turning 101 years old today. Bowman, like Mason, agreed there is still more work to be done especially in realms where women’s rights and the rights of people of color, low-income and those less educated intersect.
“There is unfinished business,” said Bowman. “It’s important to realize that we still aren’t there yet. Women are still fighting for legal rights, for constitutionally protected rights.”
Bowman mentions the Equal Rights Amendment, first introduced in 1923 but currently only ratified by 38 states. It would grant equal constitutional rights to women in legal, employment and marital matters.
In Grand Rapids on Thursday, some in-person celebrations were moved online, but the Greater Grand Rapids Women’s History Council laid mementos and tethered balloons to the grave sites of local suffragists, some who fought but never saw the right to vote in their lifetime.
“Particularly some of the early suffragists,” said Mason. “Folks that were convening in 1848.”