August 26 is the anniversary of national women’s suffrage, a triumph for democracy that Rep Bella Abzug (D-NY) chose to commemorate on that day every year starting in 1971. While Abzug certainly looked back with pride on the accomplishments of the early suffragettes, she was also very much inspired by the activism of contemporary feminists.
Only one year earlier, Betty Friedan and the National Organization for Women (NOW) organized a nationwide strike for equality. Theses protests included daring acts of civil disobedience by feminist activists, not the least of which was two skilled women who climbed the Statue of Liberty to hang two forty foot banners on the crown of the monument. These banners read “March on August 26 for Equality” and “Women of the World Unite.” The march organized by Friedan and NOW attracted 100,000 protesters nationwide, 50,000 of whom marched down Fifth Avenue in New York City.
These protests made the women’s movement a household name for mainstream America, drawing the first ever television coverage and gracing the front pages of significant newspapers with accounts of the protest. With this newfound public platform, NOW demanded equal opportunities in work and education, the right to medical help with an abortion, and free 24 hour childcare for all women nationwide regardless of background.
Those goals were ambitious then; they still are today.
We at Planned Parenthood celebrate Women’s equality day with a spirit of gratitude for the myriad accomplishments made by feminist activists in the past, while remaining focused on the numerous challenges that still face us today.
Even now, a woman’s right to reproductive self-determination is under fire, reminding us that the progress we have made is not irreversible. Far from it, we have to fight every day to ensure that women have access to the quality healthcare they need to shape a future of their choosing. This fight is made easier when we look at the amazing history of the Feminist movement and when we remember our amazing supporters we count on every day to defend Planned Parenthood.