Conventions, Suffrage and Equality

Michael's picture

On August 26th 1920, the Nineteeth Amendment to the United States Constitution became law, allowing women to vote in Presidential elections. In 1971 Congress enshrined this date in the following resolution;

WHEREAS, the women of the United States have been treated as second-class citizens and have not been entitled the full rights and privileges, public or private, legal or institutional, which are available to male citizens of the United States; and

WHEREAS, the women of the United States have united to assure that these rights and privileges are available to all citizens equally regardless of sex; and

WHEREAS, the women of the United States have designated August 26th, the anniversary date of the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, as symbol of the continued fight for equal rights: and

WHEREAS, the women of United States are to be commended and supported in their organizations and activities,

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, that August 26th of each year is designated as "Women's Equality Day," and the President is authorized and requested to issue a proclamation annually in commemoration of that day in 1920, on which the women of America were first given the right to vote, and that day in 1970, on which a nationwide demonstration for women's rights took place.

August 26th 2008 saw a historic convention of the Democratic Party following Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton's bid for the Presidential nomination, and a Convention in which that party saw fit to recognise another historic day, Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech of August 28 1963. 

Yet, one element of King's message was overlooked. Women still constitute aproximately 50% of the population of the United States yet the party chose an all male ticket for the 2008 Presidential elections, disenfranchising the millions of voters who had supported Senator Clinton.

Whether one believes that the Republican choice of Sarah Palin for the Vice Presidential nomination is representative of American women and their aspirations or not, it is a sad reflection that whereas many other countries have women in high office, the United States has waited 24 years for the second woman to be so nominated. In 1984 Geraldine Ferraro ran as Walter Mondale's partner on the Democratic ticket, and in 2008 served on Clinton's campaign. Ferraro's dismay at her own party's short sightedness compared to the Republican choice of Sarah Palin, is likely to find resonance in public opinion.

Will it be another 24 years before  King's dream of equality manifests itself as equal opportunity of leadership to women in the United States? Will it be even longer before the vision of the 1868 Fouteenth Amendment of equality under the law for "all persons" is actually realised?