"Hurrah, and vote for suffrage!" That was the message that Phoebe Ensminger Burn sent 94 years ago to her son, the youngest member of the Tennessee legislature. That day, Harry Burn, 24, cast the deciding vote in favor of women's suffrage.
By a one-vote margin, his state's approval was the final one needed to ratify the 19th amendment that granted women the right to vote. On August 26, 1920, the largest population bloc in American history was enfranchised.
Women's Equality Day is Aug. 26. It honors the tenacity of the suffragists, including Phoebe "Miss Febb" Burn, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Alice Paul and scores more, whose efforts were focused with unblinking resolve to achieve equality through the vote. This year's celebration recognizes that past achievement - and allows for women today to take stock.
Consider how these Vision 2020 National Advisors regard Women's Equality Day.
Donna Shalala, President, University of Miami and former US Secretary of Health and Human Services, writes :
"Generations have come and gone since Lizzy Stanton added two crucial words to the most hallowed phrase in our shared history as Americans: 'All men -- and women -- are created equal.'
"Equality is not just a women's issue - it is everyone's challenge. Universities can and must continue to be models that support universal women's equality. ..
"We must commit to supporting the academic trajectories of women - from the time they enter as students through graduate school, post doc, and finally their first hire. By offering networking and leadership opportunities and professional mentoring, universities build a strong foundation on which women can develop their careers, while laying the groundwork for success for future generations.
"I remember the unfair stings of my own experience as a young graduate student when I was told that women in higher education were a 'bad investment.' I won't ever forget how much women have sacrificed to claim their rightful place at the table, in academia and other arenas. We have taken big steps as a nation and a society, but we still have a long way to go. We must keep firmly in mind that we risk our claim to global leadership when we leave half the population hungry for long-overdue and necessary change."
Dawn Staley, University of South Carolina women's basketball head coach and three-time Olympic gold medalist, reflects on women's equality in sports:
"From growing up in North Philadelphia proving to the boys who dominated the courts that I was capable of playing with them, I have seen the tremendous growth of opportunities for women in athletics. And I am thankful every day for the women who fought, on a much larger stage than mine on the basketball courts at 25th and Diamond, to show that all women should have an opportunity to play.
"Early in my life, before I even knew my calling to play the game of basketball, those women laid the foundation for me to get a college education through their work to enact Title IX. From there, I joined my own set of pioneering women, and we proudly continued to march forward...
"Many of us coach that generation now, and I am charged again with helping them achieve their dreams. Their dreams are different than mine because my dream is now their reality, their normal... The game of basketball has given me so much, and I will always give back to it with both hands. I know that I am coaching women who will do the same and, in the process, have the power to change the world we live in."
On August 26, Vision 2020 will honor Women's Equality Day in the shadow of Independence Hall with a "Toast to Tenacity" and the announcement of plans for the Centennial Celebration of the 19th Amendment in Philadelphia in the year 2020. We will cheer for women's economic and social equality with a rousing "Hurrah."