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The Fight for Women’s Rights and Equality: 1920 – 2020

Protester carrying a sign at the March for Women's Rights

Unfinished business. That’s a good way to sum up the state of women’s rights in America in 2020.

Yes, we’ve made progress, but we’re also a country whose commander-in-chief bragged about grabbing women’s crotches—before he got elected. A country that has repeatedly refused to guarantee equal rights for women under the Constitution. A country that pays women less than men as a matter of course—82 cents on the dollar for white women, 65 cents for Black women, and 58 cents for Latina women. In 2020.

We’ve still got work lots of work do, but it always helps to look at past wins for inspiration. Here are some of the major events that have helped move women forward in the U.S.

1920: Women Win the Right to Vote

After enduring years of jeering, humiliation, arrests, and grueling conditions in workhouses, lawmakers finally caved in to suffragist demands for the right to vote. The passage of the 19th Amendment was pivotal—but there it had serious shortfalls. As an essay published by the National Park Service put it:

“The Nineteenth Amendment officially eliminated sex as a barrier to voting throughout the United States. It expanded voting rights to more people than any other single measure in American history. And yet, the legacy of the Nineteenth Amendment, in the short term and over the next century, turned out to be complicated. It advanced equality between the sexes but left intersecting inequalities of class, race, and ethnicity intact.”