We Run This: Women's Equality
On August 26, 1920, the 19th Amendment of the United States Constitution was enacted, giving women the right to vote. To celebrate its’ mark on American and women’s history, Congress designated August 26 as Women’s Equality Day in 1971.
Each signifies a momentous time in history, recognizing the generations of women who have brazenly fought for civil rights and gender equality.
As we look ahead to the future, we see the struggle continue for women’s voices to be heard and equally represented.
To help magnify those voices, here are a few of the women that have broken ground and shaped the face of the nation and the world.
Women, we honor you.
Susan B. Anthony
Susan B. Anthony
Leader of the Women’s Suffrage Movement, Susan B. Anthony tirelessly took a stand for women’s rights. Growing up, her and her family were proponents of the abolitionist and temperance (prohibiting the production and sale of alcohol) movements.
At the temperance rallies, she, among other women, were not allowed to give speeches. It was there she saw the clear disregard of women’s rights and decided to make a change.
In 1869, Anthony and fellow suffrage leader, Elizabeth Cady Staton, came together to create the National Woman Suffrage Association.
Anthony was president from 1892-1900. She traveled the nation several times over to educate and encourage women to be active in their right to vote.
Her death in 1906 came before the dream of women voting came to fruition, but her dedication and determination led to the 19th Amendment in 1920, allowing all women the right to vote.
Her commanding voice and presence matched her 6 foot stature. Orator and abolitionist Sojourner Truth was a reckoning force during the nineteenth century.
Originally named Isabella Baumfree, she was born into slavery in the state of New York, but would later escape from the clutches of systemic enslavement.
After a religious epiphany, she became a preacher and the Dutch-speaking Baumfree changed her name to Sojourner Truth.
She’s remembered for her passionate speeches and powerful words, speaking out against racism, slavery, and gender inequality.
Here is a video of actress Cicely Tyson delivering one of Truth’s prolific poems, “Ain’t I A Woman.”
Professor of Stanford University, Iranian mathematician Maryam Mirzalchani is the first woman to ever win the Fields Medal. The Fields Medal is a prestigious award, considered the highest honor in the mathematics field.
The 37-year old didn’t always have a passion for mathematics, especially during her childhood in Tehran, but realized that she “enjoyed it,” and saw it as a challenge. She was awarded based on her work in “the dynamics and geometry of Riemann surfaces and their moduli spaces.”
Historically, women have met resistance in math and science departments due to gender stereotypes, inequality and persisting social barriers.
Mirzalchani is a testimony to gender breakthroughs in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math), with women’s participation on the rise.
Hopefully, we will continue to see more women highlighted for these achievements.
Dr. Susan La Flesche Picotte
Dr. Susan La Flesche Picotte
Her legacy was not only in medicine, but advocating for the rights of Native Americans.
Dr. Susan La Flesche Picotte was the first Native American woman in the U.S. to receive a medical degree.
Part of the Omaha tribe, she grew up on the Omaha Reservation in northeastern Nebraska. Her parents taught her the importance of education, which she would then follow in missionary school and later the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania (WMCP), graduating first in her class.
Her inspiration for studying medicine bore from tragedy. When she was a child, she watched an ailing Indian woman die, due to the denial of treatment by a local, white doctor.
Through her medical work as a physician, she served as a community leader and health advocate, addressing the issues that plagued Native American life.
Two years before her death, she opened her own hospital in Walthill, Nebraska (1913).
In 1993, the hospital was declared a National Historic Landmark.
"We've demonstrated that women can do what men do, but not yet that men can do what women do. That's why most women have two jobs—one inside the home and one outside it—which is impossible. The truth is that women can't be equal outside the home until men are equal in it." – Gloria Steinem
A galvanizing writer, activist and feminist leader, Gloria Steinem’s story is one for the books.
Her career started in journalism, writing for several publications before co-founding her own, a feminist magazine called
Ms., in the early 70s.
Prior to her solo venture, she wrote critical pieces on abortion, women managing their careers and family, and went undercover as a Playboy Bunny to expose the harassing, exploitative treatment of women in the New York Playboy Club.
But it was not enough to write. Steinem quickly became active in politics and was a pioneer for social justice, standing alongside Civil Rights leaders, proponents of gay rights, critics of the Vietnam War, and campaigned for the Equal Rights Amendment.
She also founded and co-founded several organizations, including Voter’s Choice, the Women Media Center, the Women’s Action Alliance, and the National Women’s Political Caucus.
She is considered the “face of the women’s rights movement,” during the 60’s and 70’s, but her impact crossed gender and racial lines, as she defended all under the burden of oppression and inequality.
She tried to be silenced, but her voice was too loud.
A young woman by the name Malala Yousafzai, born in Pakistan, believed in a girl’s right to be educated. The Taliban staunchly disagreed, attacking schools comprised of female students, including one founded by Malala’s father, Ziauddin Yousafzai.
Malala knew the importance of education and challenged the Taliban, conducting a 2008 speech in Pakistan, titled: “How dare the Taliban take my basic right to education?”
She continued advocating for women’s rights, writing articles for the BBC about education equality under the pseudonym, Gul Makai, despite looming threats by the Taliban.
Her real name would later be revealed, allowing the Taliban to target and attempt an assassination.
On October 9, 2012, a gunman shot 15-year old Malala in the head as she was riding the bus home from school.
In critical condition, she was transported to another city in Pakistan, but later transferred to England for further surgery.
She survived and attended school in Birmingham, England almost a year later. In October 2013, the European Parliament awarded her the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. She would also be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Her book, “I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World,” tells her courageous story, showing that you’re never too young to take a stand.
The political and social activism of Angela Davis has been seen, heard, and felt by people all over the world.
An educator, philosopher and freedom fighter, Angela Davis advocated and continues to advocate, for social justice of the oppressed.
During the 1960’s and 1970’s she identified with the Communist Party, and had ties to the revolutionary Black Panther Party.
She was also a support of prisoner’s rights and a defender of the Soledad Brothers – three men accused of killing a prison guard. During the trial of one of the men, George Lester Jackson, a prison break attempt was made, resulting in the deaths of court officials, including a judge. David would be later accused and indicted for murder as well as being a conspirator to the jailbreak. Escaping arrest, Davis was placed on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List until she was caught by police in 1970.
After spending almost 18 months in jail, she was acquitted and found not guilty on all of the charges brought against her. During her time in jail, many demanded her freedom, starting a liberation movement.
Davis went on to author nine books and teach at several universities, retiring as a Humanities professor at the University of Santa Cruz.
She is the modern-day Tina Turner. A singer known for her dynamic live performances and intense work ethic likened to robotic fashion - Beyoncé is a powerhouse.
And she’s wielding her power in the music realm to vocalize her opinions on female empowerment. Her group and solo hits, “Independent Woman” and “Who Run the World (Girls),” have long shown her stance on gender equality.
With her latest, self-titled album, “Beyoncé,” she’s using strong, provocative lyrics to let listeners know that women shouldn’t be weighed down by double standards, especially when it comes to sexuality.
"The old lessons of submissiveness and fragility made us victims. [But] women are so much more than that,” Beyoncé explains in an email interview with
Out magazine. “You can be a businesswoman, a mother, an artist, and a feminist – whatever you want to be – and still be a sexual being. It’s not mutually exclusive."
They call 13 year-old Mo’ne Davis a pitching sensation. Being the first Little Leaguer to make the national cover of Sports Illustrated - she deserves the praise.
A pitcher for the Taney Dragons of South Williamsport, Pennsylvania, she is only one of 18 girls who have competed in the Little League Series since 1947.
Her 70 mph fastball made history, being the first girl to throw a shutout in the World Series.
Her talents on the mound proves that athleticism in any sport is not bound by gender.
Women have made a tremendous impact in the U.S. military for over 400 years. Starting as nurses and clerical aides to ailing soldiers, women can now openly fight alongside their male counterparts.
In 2013, a 1994 ban by the Pentagon was lifted, allowing women to take on “artillery, armor, infantry and other combat roles.”
The fight to be equal in a male-dominated military has not been easy.
Even as they engage in deadly combat, gender issues are pervasive, with women being three times more likely to be raped in the military than as a civilian.
Historic steps are still being made as women continue to serve in the line of duty.