Writing for Social Justice: Celebrating Women's Equality Day

Today marks the 40th anniversary of Women's Equality Day in the United States commemorating the passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, granting women the right to vote. The observance of Women's Equality Day is not only about the 19th amendment but calls attention to women's continuing efforts toward full equality.

Today I am remembering and celebrating the legacy of U.S. women writers who worked to change our country and challenge social inequality.

There are many creative and polemical texts that women of the late 19th and early 20th century wrote to advance the cause of suffrage and equal rights for women. The suffragists were a prolific bunch. They wrote and organized and wrote some more. One of my favorite women writers from the early 20th century is Charlotte Perkins Gilman who advocated for women's economic independence and challenged the prevailing sexist notions of the day. Gilman was prolific by any metric in that she wrote "more than one thousand works of non-fiction, including articles, essays, book reviews, and lectures".  Wow!

I love the bravery and strategy of Ida Wells-Barnett, a journalist and editor who worked tirelessly on advancing rights for African Americans during the early 20th century. She wrote about the savagery of lynching in Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases and its practice as one of terror and power in the South. She was a tireless advocate of women's rights and critiqued the racism that came to define the later half of the suffrage movement.  In 1930, she lost an election to become Illinois State Senator, but she a precedent for women candidates in the future.  

The successive "waves" of U.S. feminism and activism over the decades have gifted us with writers who provoke, encourage and compel us to act on (and write about) what we believe. For the second wave feminist movement, I am thinking of the writers: Alice Walker, Gloria Steinem, Adrienne Rich, Michele Wallace, and June Jordan. There are so many more I could have added, but by now I hope you are recalling some authors that are important to you. Third wavers:  bell hooks, Pat Califia, Rebecca Walker, Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards, Cherrie Moraga, Eve Ensler, Catherine Mackinnon, and Gloria Anzaldua have enriched me as a writer and inspired me to become an advocate for a more humane world.

Let's not take anything for granted in understanding just how powerful women can be when we write about the truth of our experience and posit a different vision for the world. Let's keep the pen moving for us and for all those women that have come before us. The world needs our deep, clear and true writing!


For more info on Charlotte Perkins Gilman and Ida Wells-Barnett http://www.charlotteperkinsgilman.com/2008/05/about-charlotte-perkins-gilman-1860.html


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  • Michele Tracy Berger

    Welcome Jackie! This is an awesome community of writers.

    Hi Alexandra, thanks for your comment! I'm always fired up after I read other folks' posts and hear about how they are making their writing real in the world.

  • Jackie Ann Paulson

    Thank you for your amazing information.  Today is my first day here

  • Alexandra Wright

    Wonderful post. It makes me feel connected to not only my sister writers on shewrites but also my sister writers throughout time

  • Michele Tracy Berger

    Thanks Kamy, it's so nice of you to stop by!

    Thanks Angie! Angie, I appreciate you passing along this info! We have a great history to be proud of!

  • What a great post Michele, thank you!!

  • Augie

    Michelle, thank you for reminding us...we shall never forget those who forged ahead of us. This article is inspiring.

    All of the college classes I have taken has never marked upon Ms. Gilman, I will pass along this information to friends of mine who are Professors that teach History of Women. Thanks again for all your commemoration and research. Augie

  • Michele Tracy Berger

    Hi Samantha,

    Thanks so much for your comment. Yeah, I hear you about Perkins' 1,000 writings--especially when you think about the fact that she had none of the modern day conveniences that we take for granted. Anyway, no need to compare, I'm happy when I get any writing done. And blog writing does count!!!!

  • Samantha Anastacia

    Wow! Now thats some pure inspiration right there! I am so glad you shared this with us and more glad that you wrote that!!!

    But really did you have to include the one where she wrote over a thousand things? Hit me right where it hurts! LOL

    j/k but honestly this is a great piece and Thank you!

    Samantha Stacia