March 8 marks International Women’s Day, a global celebration that has taken place yearly since the early 1900s. IWD celebrates women’s social, economic, cultural and political achievements and contributions, and calls for action to increase gender equality. This year’s theme, #BeBoldForChange, encourages women, men, and non-binary individuals to join forces and take action within their own spheres to accelerate gender parity. While IWD is marked by a single day, the movement to improve gender equality takes place day after day, year after year. The power and passion of the gender equality movement was certainly seen on January 21 of this year when 750,000 people gathered in the streets of downtown Los Angeles to march in solidarity for human rights. Overall, approximately 2.6 million people took part in 673 marches in all 50 states and 32 countries.
The Social Sciences Department recently received a generous donation of the magazine Equal Rights, published by the National Woman’s Party. The NWP was an American women’s organization formed by Alice Paul to champion women’s suffrage. This publication demonstrates that many issues in today’s fight for gender equality have been ongoing throughout the history of the women’s rights movement. Issues donated to the library, which range from 1926-1954, revolve around such comprehensive themes as labor rights and the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA).
Recently, the World Economic Forum estimated that the global gender gap, which is based on key issues like health, education, economy, and politics, won't close entirely until 2186. According to the report, one of the most challenging gender gaps remain in the economic sphere, where women continue to earn less income than men. Similar issues arise when browsing through Equal Rights. One sees issue after issue devoted to economic matters such as disparities in pay, job availability, and protection from gender discrimination, among other workplace concerns.
Another issue highlighted in both Equal Rights and the current women’s movement is the need for an Equal Rights Amendment. Drafted by Alice Paul and first introduced in Congress in 1923, the ERA stated that “men and women shall have equal rights throughout the United States and every place subject to its jurisdiction.” Countless issues of Equal Rights discuss the pressing need for this Constitutional amendment, and include articles about male allies in Congress and open letters to sitting US Presidents, as well as ongoing strategy.
The Women’s March also supports the passage of an “all-inclusive Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.” One of their Unity Principles states that the 14th Amendment is consistently undermined and does not guarantee equity on the basis of gender or race. Only the ERA can guarantee this level of equality
Looking through Equal Rights provides a unique perspective as to where we were and how much has changed in the struggle for gender equality in the US and abroad. International Women’s Day and the Women’s March demonstrate how much work remains in this struggle. Equal Rights is available for viewing in the Social Science Department at Central Library upon request.
Equal Rights excerpts provided by the National Woman's Party and the Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument.