This post originally published on August 26, 2017.
On August 26, 1920, the gumption, moxie and bravery of thousands of women saw their persistent efforts rewarded when the 19th amendment passed. Now known as Women’s Equality Day, this date commemorates when women were given the right to vote for the first time in American history.
The decades of feet-aching marches, endured battering and unjust confinement was a gift they not only gave to women in their lifetime. It was a gift to you. It was a gift to me. Sometimes I wonder: Did they think of us? Somehow, as a 90s born girl who, in this day in age, wears jeans, is typing this out on a laptop and shares their passion for equality, I think they did.
That’s how most of history unfolds; it’s a brave fight for the futures of tomorrow. Beings who flourish in those futures then work for people in the next. There is always a need for change, for betterment and for history to be made.
Women’s Equality Day is an opportunity to celebrate how far women’s rights have come. It’s also an invitation to continue the work started by those who came before us. The women of the suffrage movement taught us how powerful it is when women take certain postures to fight for human equality, bring about change and make history.
Here are three postures we can still take on today:
01: Brilliance to show empathy to those who disagree with you.
Strong, valiant heart, use your voice to surprise people with kindness and tact. It’s possible to disagree with someone (even on big, history-changing issues) without making claims about who they are as a person.
Not only does taking the high road honor the kind of woman you probably aim to be, but it’s far more productive for your cause. Focus on the issues and the injustices you are passionate about, not the people who oppose them. Remember that all people (you and I included) have backgrounds, cultures and experiences that shape their social views. Keeping that in mind and strategically offering empathy will get you so much farther than disgust ever will.
Rather than talking about what you don’t believe in, speak up about the things you do believe in and about the change you want to see. It’s so important to use your voice on behalf of others and to create a better world. Let’s not let our future daughters and sons down by falling into personal attacks that waste energy and time.
Focus on the issues and the injustices you are passionate about, not the people who oppose them.
02: Strength in knowing that being loud doesn’t make you obnoxious.
I used to be so afraid that if I spoke up about what I truly thought of the world, I would be pinned as an angry girl who just wants to cause conflict. And while some do view me in that light, most people find heartening comfort in seeing another woman fight for what she believes in. When we channel our confidence to stand up for what is right, we subliminally give other women the permission to do the same.
What if women’s suffrage leaders like Alice Paul and Susan B. Anthony were worried about what people thought of them rather than worried about getting women the right to vote? The answer is simple: You and I would not be as valued in society as we are today. Those women, and the thousands who marched behind them, knew that remaining silent perpetuates injustice and to ignore social issues is to ignore the wellbeing of all people.
You cannot control what conflict makes people cringe, but you can bring about change by talking about the injustices that matter to you. No wrong is ever made right with silence. I am so thankful for the people who decided to loudly use their voices to grant me my rights and for those who gifted me with the awareness of issues I care about today.
03: Wisdom to recognize disappointment without losing hope.
Women fought for about 100 years before they received their equality as voters. Today, a woman’s ability to vote is widely accepted as an obvious right. But the fight was filled with protests, violence and a lot of opposition. One hundred years with no legal movement, defeat after seeming defeat, was undoubtedly a heavy burden to carry.
In 1913, Alice Paul led a parade that coincided with President Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration (much like the nationwide march for women’s rights we saw earlier this year). No concrete reward came from that march until 1918, five years later, when President Wilson expressed his support for women’s equality. Even then, it was two more years until the 19th amendment passed.
As we fight for more equality as women, it’s a natural human reaction to feel a weighing disappointment when the effort we put into social issues isn’t met with a positive, tangible result. But the victories and changes we have seen throughout history for people groups who were once wildly oppressed — and now gaining empowerment — are beams of light.
Those beams beckon us forward, whispering, “Look at how far we have come. Think of how far we can go.”
What other qualities would you add to this list?
Images via Rachel Hinman