SeekingArrangement has been celebrating the century of women’s empowerment that followed the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which afforded women the right to vote exactly 100 years ago late last month.
Commemorating this milestone, SeekingArrangement’s 100 Years of Choice highlights all the myriad areas where women have gained equal standing to their male peers, the accomplishments they have contributed to our society and the power, drive and ambition that women today enjoy because of prior advancements that allow women to live their lives to the fullest and how they see fit—which certainly includes how one chooses to date.
All of the progress that has been made for women to achieve gender equality is related—social thought has evolved and ideas that were previously deemed impermissible have become the norm. Since the 19th Amendment became law, women have defied antiquated conventions in all aspects of life—women senators have been sworn into office, universities that previously only admitted male students started to diversify their campuses and women could decide to court a gentleman suitor outside their home (gasp!).
In addition to these advancements that occurred over the century, there was more progress: the idea that a woman could control their body’s destiny was written into law, discrimination legislation on the basis of sex was passed and the most successful companies in the country began hiring women for executive positions—that Fortune 500 CEO list is much more diverse now than it was at its inception.
In our modern society, women have exponential opportunities when it comes to dating compared to decades past. As the SeekingArrangement Blog explored in its “Evolution of Dating” entry, we found out that courtship has come a long way in the 100 years since women could cast a ballot—an act that greatly affected a woman’s role in society and likely is a factor in how women today can control their lives and make their own choices.
While there still is much more progress to be made for gender equality, there are a number of milestones to cherish and celebrate. We’re taking a look back at all of the miraculous moments in women’s history, taking in this fabulous time to be alive today and looking forward to a world where choice—be it who you date, how you date, how you vote, how you live‚—is even more widespread, accepted and celebrated.
The 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is ratified by Tennessee, earning the measure the number of states that ensued women the right to vote.
The nephew of women’s suffragist icon Susan B. Anthony, congressman Daniel Anthony, introduces the first iteration of what we now call the Equal Rights Amendment. His version stated that “men and women shall have equal rights throughout the United States and every place subject to its jurisdiction.” For the current proposed legislation to become law, the current United States Senate needs to eliminate a deadline that has passed, as 38 states have ratified the law. Progress is almost there!
The Senate isn’t a boy’s club anymore! Hattie Wyatt Caraway, a candidate from Arkansas, becomes the first woman elected to the upper chamber of congress on this day.
First the legislative branch of government, then the executive. On this day, Frances Perkins becomes the first woman appointed to a presidential cabinet, serving as the Secretary of Labor under President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Though introduced almost 20 years earlier, Congress finally passes the Equal Pay Act, promising equitable wages for the same work, regardless of the race, color, religion, national origin or sex of the worker. The disparity of pay among the sexes is still an issue that needs to be resolved, but this small step toward progress was an important one.
Further progress within the business sector continued to happen throughout the 1960s. On this day, President Lyndon B. Johnson signs into law the Civil Rights Act of 1964, including the bill’s Title VII that prohibits sex discrimination in employment. This legislation also created the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Want to get divorced? You would have had to have a fault-based reason prior to 1970 in most states, when California adopted the United States’ first “no fault” divorce law. All you needed was mutual consent. Divorce and date freely!
On this day, the United States Supreme Court upheld the right for unmarried couples to use birth control. Freedoms such as these are now taken for granted—remember that it’s been a long, hard-fought fight to date and do as we see fit with our personal lives.
If you’re a woman hoping to play sports on the collegiate level (which, honestly, can lead to professional careers), this day in history is an important one. Most people remember Richard Nixon for the Watergate Scandal, but his legacy as the 37th President also includes signing into law the Title IX law that affords women equal access to education programs with federal support (think: state universities, etc.). Part of his Education Amendments, the law opened up attractive opportunities for women student athletes.
With all this progress, it was inevitable that we would begin to see epic advances in the business world.
In 1972, Juanita Kreps became the first woman director of the New York Stock Exchange. Five years later, Kreps became the first woman to hold the post of Secretary of Commerce under President Jimmy Carter.
In that same year, Katharine Graham became the first woman CEO of a Fortune 500 company, the Washington Post. She led the newspaper through many historical situations, including the publishing of the Pentagon Papers regarding classified documents pertaining to the Vietnam War, as well as the Watergate Scandal which ultimately led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon.
This day in history is marked by the landmark Supreme Court ruling of Roe v. Wade, which made abortion legal. While abortion rights are a hot-button topic—especially in this election year with a Supreme Court justice seat open—the ruling has been held up for 47 years.
Looking for a new place to live? That wasn’t so easy not so long ago. Prior to a law passed by Congress in 1974, women could be discriminated against while seeking housing. The decision also included prohibiting credit discrimination against women.
Amending the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act was approved on this day. Before this decision, employers could discriminate against pregnant women! Think about how this likely influenced the now widespread idea of paid maternity leave …
By the 1980s there were women in the Senate, the House and the Presidential Cabinet. And on this day women broke another glass ceiling in our federal government when Sandra Day O’Connor became the first woman to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States.
From breaking glass ceilings to breaking glass atmospheres! On this day, Dr. Sally K. Ride becomes the first American woman astronaut to be sent into space. At the monumental event, many onlookers wore T-shirts emblazoned with the lyrics “Ride, Sally, Ride” from Wilson Pickett’s popular “Mustang Sally” hit.
History was made when Democratic Presidential nominee Walter Mondale named New York Congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro as his running mate, as she became the first woman to be nominated to be vice president on a major party ticket.
Women in the workplace have faced a number of adversities, but after a decision from the U.S. Supreme Court on this day, women gained an important edge when bringing up sexual harassment cases. The decision held that a work environment could be declared hostile or abusive because of discrimination based on sex.
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame for her career-long work fighting for women’s equality. Following graduating from Columbia Law School at the top of her class, Ginsburg became the university’s first tenured woman professor and helmed the American Civil Liberties Union’s Women’s Rights Project. She then served as a judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals before becoming the second woman appointed to the Supreme Court. Ginsburg, popularly known as “the Notorious RBG,” passed away in September 2020 after a decades-long battle with cancer.
Nancy Pelosi becomes the first woman to rise to the position of Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, becoming quite literally the most powerful woman in America—as the position is second in line to the Presidency after the Vice President.
Following in Ferraro’s footsteps, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin is nominated as the second female vice presidential candidate from a major political party—and the first Republican woman. Women’s equality on both sides of the aisle!
Equality in the military! Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta overturned the ban against women in military combat positions on this day.
The ultimate goal for women seeking the highest office in government happens on this day, as Hillary Clinton becomes the Democratic presidential nominee—making her the first U.S. woman to do so. While she wins the popular vote months later in November, the Electoral College gives the win to opponent Donald Trump.
Another milestone moment for women in politics in the United States happened just this year, when California Senator Kamala Harris was named the vice presidential nominee for the Democratic ticket. Not only is Harris the third woman to achieve this distinction, she is also the first African American and the first Asian American person to do so.
All of these amazing milestones highlighting the achievements of women are just a fraction of the progress that has been made throughout the last century. With hard work, perseverance and dedication, women have achieved so much since gaining the right to vote—and they continue to do so today, as there is more work to be done to achieve full gender equality.
All of the progress of women’s rights has evolved social thought, as women slowly began to be seen as equal to their male counterparts. Women enjoy the freedom of their choices today because of the determination of their predecessors. We salute all of the women working toward making this world a more equal, accepting place, where we can live our lives exactly how we see fit.
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