Our Votes, Voices and Equality

By Erin Matson, NOW Action Vice President

Zoe Nicholson, Pacific Shore NOW President, co-authored this post

As we celebrate Women’s Equality Day, we are compelled to honor the bravery of women who came before us; resolve to finish the job for full constitutional equality within our lifetimes; and recognize the unbreakable link between the status of women worldwide and the ability of each woman to select, control and fulfill her own destiny.

August 26 is not an arbitrary day to celebrate Women’s Equality Day or launch a blog for the National Organization for Women. Aug. 26 commemorates that day in 1920 when women secured our right to vote in the United States. We are reminded that our votes and voices mean everything in the continuing struggle for full equality.

ERA YES!

This last week Afghan women, who have the right to vote, were, in many cases, not allowed to leave the house to vote — they were required to get their husband’s permission and find a polling place entirely staffed by women. In stopping women from voting in these ways, it is certain that the elected leaders will not be champions of women. But even in the face of such terrible obstacles to manage their own destinies, the women and men of Afghanistan are equally represented in their country’s constitution. The exact language is, “the citizens of Afghanistan — whether man or woman — have equal rights and duties before the law.” One of the stated reasons the U.S. is so proud to send troops to other countries is to assure women and men equal rights.

Certainly women have far more rights in the U.S. Women and men can go to mixed polling places, ask permission from no one and secretly vote for whom they please. Even though we may vote against our economic interests, we are free to collect information and vote. But Alice Paul, champion for women’s right to vote, knew that her brilliant, victorious suffrage campaign was only half the job. Being able to vote is not enough to assure women and men equal opportunity, equal pay, equality under the law.

ERA Bracelet

Just three years after giving her all for the 19th Amendment, Ms. Paul set her eye on the U.S. Constitution in 1923. Writing and re-writing the precise language for over 20 years, she settled on the same 24 words we continue to fight for today: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.” Faced with deadlines, myths and, detrimentally, people thinking it actually passed, the Equal Rights Amendment remains on the top of the social justice to-do list.

NOW is committed to finishing the job Alice Paul began. Many of our members knew her, worked with her and tell wonderful stories of her tenacity and, it is rumored, quick wit. This bracelet is evidence of her humor and all encompassing dedication to counting up the states to guarantee ratification.

As feminists, we must cast our votes and raise our voices to ensure equality for women abroad and at home. We must hold our elected representatives accountable to passing the original ERA through a three-state strategy or passing that same language through a process that begins right now. If they don’t, we must vote them out of office. Either way, on Women’s Equality Day, and every day, our voices make the difference.

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