Women's Equality Day 2013: Learning from Civil Rights Leaders

march-on-washington-wide

march-on-washington-wide

It was all over the news for days. Every pundit, every political talk show, every newspaper running big retrospective spreads. Op eds galore, and reminiscences of what it was like to be marching together toward equality.

Tomorrow, August 26 is Women’s Equality Day, the day that commemorates passage of the 19th amendment to the US constitution, giving women the right to vote after a struggle that lasted over 70 years.  A big deal, right?

Right. But that’s not what all the news was about. In fact, though President Obama issued a proclamationand a few columnists like the New York Times’ Gail Collins gave it a nod, hardly anyone is talking about Women’s Equality Day. At least not in consciousness-saturating ways that garner major media’s attention, as yesterday’s March on Washington commemorating the 50th anniversary of a similar Civil Rights march.

Yet the two anniversaries are rooted in common values about equality and justice for all. They share common adversaries and aspirations. Racism and sexism are joined at the head.

And, as League of Women Voters president Elisabeth MacNamara’s article in the Huffington Post explains, both movements today share the challenge of maintaining the right to vote, earned with such toil and tears and even bloodshed.

Like many people who participated in the 1960’s Civil Rights Movement, I celebrate how far America has moved toward racial justice in the last 50 ‘years. I am grateful to the Civil Rights movement for calling our nation not just to fulfill its moral promise to African Americans, but by its example of courage and activism inspiring the second wave women’s movement, the gay rights movement, and so much more.

I remember having an epiphany while volunteering for a multi-racial civil rights organization called the Panel of American Women, that if there were civil rights, then women must have them too. That awareness ignited my passion for women’s equality which has driven my career ever since.

But just as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s galvanizing “I Have a Dream” speech thundered, “Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood,” (emphasis mine) and sisters were not mentioned, women have yet to rise to full equality when it comes to honoring women’s historical accomplishments and current voices.

And just as yesterday’s commemorative March on Washington was a necessary reminder of how far we have yet to go to achieve the full vision of the Civil Rights movement, so Women’s Equality Day tomorrow is best celebrated by committing ourselves to breaking through the remaining barriers to full leadership parity for women.

We’ll have two posts on The Movement blog calling attention to the auspicious anniversary.

The first is Susan Weiss Gross’s delightful personal story–the tractor being a perfect metaphor–of how she overcame her internal barriers to equality. The second comes from author and Ms Magazine founding editor Susan Braun Levine. Suzanne will be writing about “Empowerment Entrepreneurs” and how empowering each other is the latest development in women’s equality.

Keep your eye out for these two posts. Or better yet, subscribe to The Movement blog and get our posts delivered right into your inbox. Read, enjoy, and then get to work along with Take The Lead in our 21st century movement to prepare, develop, inspire, and propel women to take their air and equal share of leadership positions across all sectors by 2025.

As yesterday’s March on Washington twitter hashtag exhorted us to do, “#MarchOn!”


 About the Author

Gloria Feldt, Co-Founder and President of Take The Lead, is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. She teaches "Women, Power, and Leadership" at Arizona State University and was named to Vanity Fair's Top 200 women Legends, Leaders, and Trailblazers.