Women’s Equality Day celebrates the liberty to voice our opinion, but it also highlights the lack of freedom voting has in today’s climate.
August 26 marks the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment. Women were fighting for equality for all and were creating their movements through this fight for change. Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton started the Women’s Suffrage, yet they are not the only ones who fought for equality. Nor were they the ones that took into account others who to include in the movement, despite their talks with various civil rights and community leaders in different race groups. Activists like Ida B. Wells, Marie Louise Bottineau Baldwin, Adelina Otero Warren ), and Mabel Lee contributed the suffrage and helped establish the Amendment. The Star Tribune said it best on the matter, “Our historical understanding is incomplete if we forget the leadership of women of color and Indigenous women in advancing voting rights both before and after the ratification of the 19th Amendment was ratified.”
Today, we can add The ACLU of Louisiana as one of the leaders in advancing voting rights. For nearly 100 years, the ACLU has been the nation’s guardian of liberty, working in courts, legislatures, and communities. ACLU defends and preserves the individual right and liberties that the Constitution and the U.S. laws guarantee everyone in this country. The executive director of the ACLU of Louisiana, Alanah Odoms-Hebert, says that the company fights for women’s rights, equality for the LGBTQ community, ending mass incarceration, and preserving the right to vote. She said, “The ACLU takes up the toughest civil liberties cases and issues to defend all people from government abuse and overreach.”
The organization has been working in communities and with citizens to make changes in the state. They have noticed that Millennials and Generation Zs have not been interested in pleasing the ones implementing the rules and regulations. A lot of people are “more interested in a holistic conversation that focuses on a variety of ways people can organize and impact change.” Even more, this is the case with minorities showing interest in making a difference in their terms. According to a study done by Hamilton University, 29.1% of Blacks & POC said that they have considered going into politics with 22.4% saying that they’ve volunteered for a political campaign. This makes sense when many young people (age 18-24 years-old) feel that the individuals who hold legislative seats do not have their best interest at heart. 33.6% of young people do not think politicians pay enough attention to their concerns.
ACLU of Louisiana has noticed the shift and has made strides in providing realistic goals to make changes. Odoms-Herbert commented on the work the branch has done in the community, “Our primary focus at the state level when it comes to the well-being of women in our fight to keep families together: whether that’s battling the Trump administration family separation and mass deportation policies or fighting to end the era of wealth-based incarceration.”
The ACLU works through the courts & legislatures to:
- Ensure women can make their own decisions about when and whether to start a family by challenging unconstitutional abortion bans.
- We fight for the rights of pregnant workers in the workplace – by challenging pregnancy discrimination.
- We fight for paid parental leave – which is just as important for dads as moms. Last year they reached a historic settlement against JPMorgan Chase on behalf of male employees who were unlawfully denied access to paid parental leave on the same terms as mothers from 2011 to 2017.
- They fight for equal pay for equal work. Women still make just 78 cents for every dollar earned by men. Black women earn only 64 cents and Latinas only 54 cents for each dollar earned by white men.
So how can people of today make these changes in their own hometowns? By having conversations about equality. “Not only among women, but men need to be a part of the conversation as well,” Odoms-Hebert said. “Whether we’re talking about equal pay, paid leave, or reproductive justice-everyone will benefit from policies that empower women and advance gender equality.”
Instead of celebrating a monumental moment in history for one day out of the year, we should push for change every day and demand justice and liberty. Stanton & Anthony were able to set forth the fight because of their privilege & we should be grateful for their contribution. As women & as people of today, we should continue to raise our voices & proceed to make noise until history marks the day that we made a difference. Odoms-Hebert suggests women be advocates for each other in the workplace. She commented, “If you realize you’re the only woman at the table, make it your business to pull other women along with you. Or maybe it’s encouraging a colleague to go for that promotion, or talking her up to the boss.”
If you would like to volunteer at the Louisiana branch of ACLU or to learn more about what you can do to make a difference, please click here.