Please join me in a movement to have August 26 declared a national voting holiday. The date is important because it commemorates the day women finally won the vote in the US: August 26, 1920. Besides, there are no holidays in August, no other holidays celebrate peaceful non-violent social change, and we have nary a holiday that celebrates the non-maternal accomplishments of women. Hey, I'm not against Mother's Day... it's just that not all of us are mothers. And isn't having a day every year devoted to registering new voters a long overdue idea?
And for the more materialistic among us, August needs a reason to buy cards and gifts. Holidays help the economy, right?
In any event, the best gift human rights activists could possibly think of just came from President Jimmy Carter in his very public and moral stand against misogyny that is rooted in religion. In what must have been an excruciating personal decision, Carter has severed ties with the Southern Baptists over their systemic discrimination against women and girls. For a copy of the full text, please see his Op-Ed that was recently published in the UK Observer.
For the many women and men who have worked tirelessly for women's rights internationally and domestically, this has been a particularly important week. It was kicked off by the stunning and vital special issue of the Sunday New York Times Magazine dedicated to saving the world's women, that included Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn's centerpiece article called "The Women's Crusade."
Another piece in the same issue is highly important. Entitled "The Power of the Purse," by Lisa Belkin, it highlights the work of philanthropists Helen LaKelly Hunt and her sister Swanee Hunt in their mission and vision to get other wealthy women onboard with financing women's liberation. Shockingly, the philanthropic pie has been very meager when it comes to human rights for women and girls. The Hunt duo has shifted millions of dollars through their initiative, Women Moving Millions (W.M.M.) and have had a huge impact already in the few years they've been in action. Helen LaKelly Hunt was inspired by her study of the suffrage movement. Women did not fund women in getting the vote. She's personally shifting women's own gender bias when it comes to deep purses.
We do need a voting holiday. Let the suffragists become an icon for peaceful non-violent social change. Consider them: a whole core of very human, very vulnerable, non-voting women worked tirelessly to get the vote for all women, knowing full well they may never get to vote themselves. They knew human rights for women started with the vote. They demonstrated the notion that the generous, wise human being is the kind of person who will plant a tree, even if they know they'll never enjoy its shade or its fruit.
The suffragists also demonstrated for the first time on the planet that force (a.k.a violence), is not the only way to get things done. The women who won the vote for us -- Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Alice Stone, Matilda J. Gage, Carrie Chapman Catt and others... their names should fill memorial walls -- may have given their lives, but they did it without literally shedding their or anyone else's blood to do it. Not one shot was fired to enfranchise half of the population. Gandhi watched as a young lawyer in South Africa and got many of his ideas of civil disobedience and non-violent change from watching the gals.
There were male suffragists too, bless their human-rights hearts. By the way, the term "suffragette" is an example of turn-of-the-century media "spin." There were enough men involved in the women's rights movement that the anti-vote males in the media used "suffragette" to humiliate men who were "suffragists," diminishing the term by putting an "ette" on the end.
Meanwhile, get a copy of HBO's Iron Jawed Angels -- Netflix and Amazon both carry it -- and check out the courage of the foremothers whose shoulders we stand on. In a tribute to "times do change," I pitched a Movie of the Week idea to Lorimar Television around 25 years ago, about the fight it took to get women the vote. I was told it was too boring; not enough people care about women's history. This makes the HBO movie even more relevant, although there's still been no major motion picture about the most dramatic, non-violent move to create democracy on the face of this planet. Maybe the climate is finally shifting.
Until we accomplish making August 26 a national holiday, make it a point to do SOMETHING. Make a donation to The Hunger Project, an organization which has focused on women and girls for many years. Subscribe or re-subscribe to Ms. Magazine. Register to vote, or register someone else. Bake a cake, twitter a remembrance to women and girls, burn a bra. Who cares... on this date, just remember and honor the suffragists any way you can.