Wisconsinites marked Women’s Equality Day on Aug. 26 with a rally at the state Capitol, where hundreds gathered to call on state lawmakers to halt the Republican Party’s attack on women’s rights.
Congress established Women’s Equality Day in 1971 to commemorate the certification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Wisconsin was the first state to ratify the amendment, a fact not lost on those who assembled on Aug. 26 for the Stand with Wisconsin Women Rally in Madison.
“Wisconsin had such a proud history, which makes what Gov. Scott Walker has done a real disgrace and a travesty,” said rallier Ginny Scramp of Appleton. “Wisconsin once was a leader in progress. Now it leads in rolling back rights. Who else but Walker would repeal the state equal pay act?”
Speakers said Walker and the GOP leadership have introduced, moved and passed more than a dozen bills against women’s rights and equality.
Several days after the rally, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin invited activists to continue to stand with women and challenge state Senate President Mike Ellis, who facilitated passage of five bills limiting women’s accessibility to affordable health care and also limiting their rights to make reproductive decisions.
PPAW executive director Tanya Atkinson said the Senate president, the focus of a new ad campaign, “has shown himself to be a career politician who doesn’t listen to his constituents and consistently votes against women’s ability to access essential health care.”
PPAW described the campaign as the first in a series.
“We will remind community members that we can prevail in protecting women’s health and rights, but only if we remain engaged and hold our elected leaders accountable and call on them to represent our best interests as a state,” Atkinson said.
Equality Day events also took place at many other state capitols and in the U.S. capital, where civil rights activists were assembled for a week of events commemorating the 1963 March on Washington.
Speakers and activists at the Equality Day events said they wanted to celebrate achievements – including certification in 1920 of the 19th Amendment guaranteeing women the right to vote. But they also wanted to make demands.
“I don’t want to belittle the progress we’ve made,” said Baltimore resident Robin Holmes, who attended a rally in Washington, D.C. “But we have a long way to go. I think about this every two weeks when I get my paycheck. In 1963, when the Equal Pay Act was signed, a woman earned about 59 cents to the dollar a man earned. Today, women earn about 81 cents to the dollar earned by men.”
Penny Buschard said she attended an Equality Day rally in Sarasota because she’s concerned about conservatives’ attacks on abortion rights, but even more concerned about equal pay.
“We don’t have equal pay in nearly every occupation,” Buschard said. “There’s no bigger issue for women – none. When our earnings are equal, we will see a shift, a balance in everything else. We’re observing Equality Day because we don’t have equality.”