March is Women’s History Month. This month, we honor and celebrate the contributions of women in history and today. At Blackburn Center, we couldn’t think of a better way to kick off Women’s History Month than to highlight a few of the major accomplishments women have made in the fight for gender equality.
The Nineteenth Amendment, which granted American women suffrage, or the right to vote, was a colossal accomplishment of the women’s rights movement. Women’s suffrage gained traction in the United States after the national development of the women’s rights movement in the mid-1800s. For nearly 70 years, abolitionists and activists like Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, and Susan B. Anthony fought to ensure that no American woman could be turned away at the voting polls on the basis of sex. The Nineteenth Amendment was ratified on August 18th, 1920. However, while this was an important milestone in the women’s movement, not all women gained the right to vote with the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment. It was not until the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that all women — including Black women, Native American women, Asian women, and Latinx women — were guaranteed the right to vote throughout the United States.
Education and Sports
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 was another major achievement of the women’s rights movement. The law states, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” Edith Green, who served ten terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, was a sponsor and driving force behind Title IX. Title IX has since provided opportunities for women in athletics as well as higher education. Title IX prohibits sex-based discrimination in education as a whole, and protects students from discrimination based on sex, gender identity or gender expression. It also mandates that colleges and universities appropriately handle complaints of sexual violence, harassment and discrimination, and provides a basis for filing complaints against schools for failing to do so.
In 1942, Congresswoman Winifred C. Stanley introduced HR 5056, which proposed that employers should be required to pay women wages equal to men for equal work. HR 5056 did not pass, but Stanley’s principles were later used in The Equal Pay Act of 1963. The Act made it illegal for employers to pay men and women different salaries for the same work. Unfortunately, the limited scope and enforcement of the Act resulted in a continued wage gap. While we must continue to fight to end the wage gap, women like Winifred C Stanley have enabled us to get one step closer to equal pay for women.
Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault (Gender-based Violence)
The Violence Against Women Act of 1994 (VAWA) was an incredible triumph for women’s rights that aimed to end violence against women through federally funding violence prevention and victim services. The development and passage of the bill was largely attributed to women’s rights activists who lobbied for Congress to legislate federal protections for women. The Violence Against Women Act has been expanded and built upon in 2000, 2005, and 2013 — each time furthering the protection, enforcement, and services of these laws.
These monumental accomplishments are not only a testament to the contributions of women in history toward gender equality, but they can also serve as a source of inspiration to us all. From Susan B. Anthony to Winifred C. Stanley, women have observed the injustices of gender inequality firsthand and worked to change the world around them for the better. By supporting projects, organizations, and centers that aim to bring an end to gender inequality, you too can be part of that change.