Equality is never optional

The following is a statement from Mary Kay Henry, international president of the Service Employees International Union, marking the occasion of  Women’s Equality Day on Aug. 26:

Ninety-one years ago today, American women won the right to vote in a victory that brought our country one step closer to equality.

Universal suffrage opened the door to equality that reshaped America. These courageous women set the precedent for female scientists to explore the next frontiers of medicine and female astronauts to explore the last frontiers of our universe. The success of women in business, politics, healthcare and education today has its roots in the willingness of a few bold and brave women to stand up for what they believed in more than nine decades ago.

The legacy of these courageous leaders continues in the millions of women who lead every day. Today, we celebrate the mother who is raising children on her own and still managing to put food on the table. Today, we celebrate the caregiver whose true colors shine through as she nurtures those in need. Today, we celebrate the teacher who is as committed to the success of the children in her classroom as she is to the success of her own.

The courage of these women reminds us that equality is never optional, and is always necessary.

Even as we celebrate National Women’s Equality Day, we cannot lose sight of the work yet to be done to achieve full equality. The remaining wage gap in this country is an affront to the millions of hardworking women who deserve the same compensation as their male counterparts.

While some extremist politicians seek to divide us with attacks on immigrants, the middle class, reproductive rights and the LGBT community, the legacy of the fight for universal suffrage nine decades ago reminds us that we cannot live up to our promise as a nation until we extend equal rights to all people.

Mary Kay Henry, International president
Service Employees International Union