The 19th amendment empowered women to stand up and vote for what they believed in, and forever changed the landscape of our society. The impact of women’s access to vote in 1920 cast ripples through time and contributed to where we are today. Women now have the freedom to pursue higher education, the ability to become scientists and engineers, and the independence to choose their futures.

So, what is Women’s Equality Day, and why is it celebrated on August 26?

The roots of Women’s Equality Day started in 1945. Proclamation 2671, written by President Harry S. Truman, designated November 2 as Women’s Enfranchisement Day in honor of the 25th anniversary of the first election in which women were allowed to vote.  Unfortunately, this date did not gain any traction, and it wasn’t until years later that the 19th amendment was again recognized by a president.

In 1973, Congresswomen Bella Abzug, Shirley Chisholm, and Patsy Mink pressured Congress and the president to celebrate women’s achievements and recognize the progress of women’s equality. They persisted, they fought for their beliefs, and they cast ripples through time.

Proclamation 4236, written by President Richard Nixon, officially declared August 26 as Women’s Equality Day. The day marked the anniversary of Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby signing the document granting American women the constitutional right to vote.

The persistence, the determination, and the tenacity of those women solidified our place in history.

“While we are making great strides to eliminate outright job discrimination because of sex in the Federal Government, we must recognize that people’s attitudes cannot be changed by laws alone. We must do all that we can to overcome these barriers against what is fair and right.” (Nixon, Proclamation 4236)

These words still apply today. Attitudes cannot be changed by laws alone. Attitudes are changed through educating our peers, reaching out to our communities, and reminding young girls that they can be whatever they want to be when they grow up.

The Department of Energy national laboratories recognize the call to action to promote and retain women in science and technology. Each year, Argonne hosts several outreach events for grade school and high school girls to educate them on the possibilities of pursuing a STEM education and overcoming barriers. These events open doors to a career path they may not have thought possible.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Women’s Equality Day. Since 1973, each U.S. President has formally written a proclamation recognizing August 26 to commemorate this monumental milestone in women’s history. As we continue our journey toward equality and diversification, let us stand up for what we believe in and cast ripples into the next century.

If you are interested in learning more to support women in science and technology, please join wisttalk or reach out to Program Initiator Rebecca Yassan.