Aug. 26 was Women’s Equality Day in North Carolina, meant to recognize the inequalities women face in wages, voting rights and political representation.
This year, Gov. Roy Cooper proclaimed the day to honor female leaders across the state and encourage citizens to support women's advocacy organizations.
Aug. 26 was Women’s Equality Day in North Carolina, meant to recognize the inequalities women face in wages, voting rights and political representation. This year, Gov. Roy Cooper proclaimed Aug. 26 as Women’s Equality Day in N.C.
“Today, we celebrate the women in our communities who are breaking barriers and the women who inspired them,” Cooper said in a press release. “Smart, strong women leaders will continue to lead the way as we work to ensure that everyone has access to equal opportunities, pay and respect for their contributions.”
The day has been nationally recognized since 1971, when the U.S. Congress passed a bill in honor of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote in August 1920.
Just six months before the amendment was ratified, the League of Women Voters(LWV) was formed in Chicago, Illinois, and has since established over 750 local leagues across the country.
Jennifer Rubin, the president of LWV Orange, Durham and Chatham counties, said the nonpartisan organization focuses on informing and empowering citizens to defend democracy.
Rubin said while the LWV has existed for more than a century, voting rights are still being challenged to this day. Much of this has to do with limitations placed on convenient voting methods, such as mail-in ballots, she said.
“In general, there's just a lot of conversations about voting integrity that are impacting legislation,” Rubin said. “It makes it harder for people to vote. Voting locations are being minimized. Voting hours are being restricted. It's so damaging to democracy.”
Rubin said the overturning of Roe v. Wade is an important example of why voting matters. In some cases, she said, voting ensures that citizens' rights are maintained.
After the movement to allow women to vote 100 years ago, the right to vote is not a given, Rubin said.
“These issues that are impacting women and families are really important and they can be changed,” Rubin said. “When you vote, you can elect people who believe in the same rights and responsibilities of government as you do. It’s important that people study the issues and the candidates. It seems like a simple thing, but it's not anymore.”
Renée Price, the chairperson of the Orange County Board of Commissioners, said the recent overturning of Roe v. Wade threatens women's rights in general, including their right to make choices regarding health care.
“We are not telling men what to do with their bodies," Price said. "Women should be able to determine whether or not we want abortion, whether we take contraceptives, whatever we feel is necessary for our health.”
Rubin said the LWV recognizes that women’s rights are actively being diminished, which is why it is focused on advocating for the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment.
If published into law, the amendment would ensure equal rights for all American citizens regardless of sex by ending the legal distinctions between men and women in divorce, property, employment and other issues.
“It should be ratified,” Rubin said. “Voting rights legislation should be enacted, to make sure that everyone can vote and that no one's voting rights are threatened. And that reproductive rights are restored for women.”
Celisa Lehew, assistant chief of police at the Chapel Hill Police Department, said those who paved the way for women’s full and equal participation in society deserve to be celebrated every day, not just on Women’s Equality Day.
“As we look back, we have grown to so much more than just the right to vote,” Lehew said. “I'm thankful for the trailblazers that worked so hard so many years ago, and thankful that I can continue to contribute to not only my profession but my community as a woman.”
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