August 26th marked Women’s Equality Day, a day which commemorates the passage of the 19th Amendment—which, when it was ratified a year later, finally granted women the right to vote. Passed in 1919 (and nearly 150 years following America’s independence), women’s suffrage is a symbol of our progress toward national gender equality. As times have changed, women have continued to make strides, claim a seat at the table, and fight for their right for full equality. The right to vote was the first of many rights women have had to fight for over the ensuing years. Here’s a round-up of various rights women have gained in the just the last 50+ years alone.
1. The Right to Equal Pay (1963)
The Equal Pay Act of 1963 is considered one of the first major steps in the fight toward economic equality for women. Signed by President John F. Kennedy, the act mandates that employers may not pay employees unequally for equal work—making the common practice of paying women lower wages than men unlawful, but unfortunately difficult to enforce. While a step in the right direction, Kennedy acknowledged that “much remains to be done to achieve full equality of economic opportunity.”
2. The Right to Run Marathons (1972)
In 1960, women were banned from participating in competitive road races (like the renowned Boston Marathon!) by the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU). The AAU, which oversaw amateur sports programs, stated that women were to be excluded from track and field races because of a debunked claim that “long-distance running could cause infertility in women.” After backlash and protests, including the first woman running the Boston Marathon disguised as a man in 1967, the AAU permitted women to track and field races in 1972.
3. The Right to Reproductive Freedom (1973)
Women’s reproductive rights were revolutionized in 1973 when the U.S. Supreme Court decided— in the landmark 7-2 Roe vs. Wade case— that a woman’s right to have an abortion was constitutionally protected.
4. The Right to Serve on a Jury (1973)
Jury duty gets a bad rap as something many people try to avoid, but women in all 50 states weren’t even allowed to serve on a jury until 1973. Though the Civil Rights Act of 1957 permitted Black Americans and women to serve as jurors, it wasn’t until the early 1970s that all 50 states passed legislation allowing women to serve on a jury.
5. The Right to Credit (1974)
If you were a woman applying for a credit card forty years ago, you could anticipate questions like “are you married” or “are you planning on having children.” And if you were single, divorced, or widowed, it was likely that a bank would require you to bring a man to cosign your application. Passage of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act of 1974 made these discriminatory practices illegal and allowed people of any gender, race, and marital status the financial freedom to open their own line of credit.
Take Action! Celebrate Women’s Equality Day all week long by discussing the strides women have made with your friends and family.