On June 17-18, 1873, pioneering feminist Susan B. Anthony stood trial. The previous November, Anthony led a group of women who attempted to exercise their rights as citizens by voting in the presidential election in Rochester, New York. Since voting for women was then considered illegal, Anthony was arrested on the charge of “criminal voting,” tried the following June, then fined $100, which she refused to pay.
Today is the 93rd anniversary of the certification of the 19th Amendment which granted women the right to vote. Thanks to the incredible and fearless work of women’s advocates such as Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Ida B. Wells, Alice Paul, and many others, today women not only have the right to vote, but are having conversations about how to “Lean In” while demonstrating leadership that is changing the world.
Women today have made great strides and are contributing to our global community in a way that was unimaginable a century ago. Women outpace men in higher education, make up nearly half of the workforce, and hold half of middle management position. This said, we have a long ways to go. We continue to have debates about women’s rights and exactly what that means. Our discussions on reproductive justice, equal pay for equal work, and work/family balance demand ongoing evaluation of the ways women persist to endure injustice. Violence against women continues to be a serious concern in every culture and women’s rights are violated everyday around the world.
We must celebrate the achievements of our foresisters and forebrothers who risked everything so that women today can push forward in the ongoing pursuit for justice. Celebrating Women’s Equality Day is an opportunity to acknowledge their sacrifices, honor their successes, and embrace their spirits. But we mustn’t settle for a society that has accepted the ongoing marginalization of women. Rather, we must be inspired by the example of those who have worked for justice and continue to model their courage.
If you are looking for some inspiration today and need a reminder of what Women’s Equality Day is all about, consider watching Iron Jawed Angels, an HBO film about the suffrage movement and the triumphs of women who put their lives on the line for the right to vote. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
Gina Messina-Dysert, Ph.D. is Dean of Graduate and Professional Studies at Ursuline College.