From Suffrage to CEDAW – Celebrate Women’s Equality Day

Aug 26, 2010

Happy Birthday 19th Amendment!

Believe it or not, it’s only been 90 years since the 19th Amendment guaranteeing women the right to vote in our democracy was made part of the Constitution. Since 1971, we’ve celebrated the anniversary of August 26, 1920, as Women’s Equality Day.

One great way to celebrate would be to make sure that every eligible woman is registered to vote. That includes women turning 18 and those who have recently become naturalized citizens. After all, as important as the right to vote is, it’s even more important to use the vote to help shape the direction of our nation. So make sure you’re registered and encourage everyone you know to do the same.

Women’s Equality Day is also the perfect time to consider what the United States can do to advance women’s rights as human rights.  Social workers concerned with social justice and equity have an opportunity on this day to promote women’s rights by supporting CEDAW – the Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.

CEDAW, also known as the Women’s Treaty, is a landmark international agreement that affirms principles of fundamental human rights and equality for women around the world. CEDAW helps women and girls by offering a practical blueprint for ending discrimination, stopping violence against women and trafficking of women and girls, ensuring education and vocational opportunities, and increasing political participation including the right to vote and to hold political office.

The United States played an important role in drafting CEDAW, which the United Nations adopted in 1979. But the U.S. remains one of only seven countries, including Iran, Sudan, Somalia, and three small Pacific Island countries (Nauru, Palau and Tonga), that have not yet ratified CEDAW.

That could change this year. It takes the votes of 67 senators to ratify a treaty, and President Obama and over 100 national organizations have expressed their support for the treaty’s ratification.

Ratifying the CEDAW treaty would continue America’s proud bipartisan tradition of promoting and protecting human rights, and it would strengthen the United States as a global leader in standing up for women and girls in countries around the world.

The CEDAW website – – has more information about CEDAW along with practical suggestions on how you can help the treaty become ratified.  The NASW website also has more information about its work on women’s rights.

The fight for women’s suffrage took more than 70 years of persistent advocacy, organizing and education and was only secured when a 24-year-old member of the Tennessee legislature, acting on a note from his mother, changed his vote from “no” to “yes” so Tennessee became the final state needed to ratify the 19th Amendment.

So let’s make history again – and help ratify CEDAW.  TAKE ACTION HERE

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