For many years now, my female friends have received an unusual invitation from me regarding Aug. 26, Women’s Equality Day (W.E.D.).
About 16 years ago, at a mutual friend’s home, I met national treasure, women’s historian hero and advocate Molly Murphy MacGregor. After that auspicious meeting, I vowed to create the biggest brouhaha I could over the still barely mined world of women’s history. And the perfect day to do that is on Aug. 26: the day in 1920 when women’s right to vote was formalized in the U.S. Constitution. It’s party time!
For my first W.E.D. party — the first of many — I set up six round tables, each seating four, in our cozy, crowded house. Each table had purple, white and gold tablecloths and accents and a female-themed centerpiece. In our house, walls and shelves are crowded with female figurines and women’s arts and crafts from my travels. The whole joint screams global women’s visibility to visually compensate for our virtual invisibility.
In the party invitations, I issued instructions on attendance — how queenly of me! I “commanded” that each woman brings three things:
1. Bring a potluck item that represents your mother, enough to share with at least eight people. I served rhubarb pie. My mother was an excellent baker, and rhubarb pie quintessentially represents our Great Plains homeland. Some women brought pizza, while others brought soup. One woman brought a bottle of vodka to represent her heart-breaking home life with her mom. I put the “luck” back in potluck and didn’t dictate who brought what. (Since then, we’ve had some very odd meals!)
2. Bring a picture of your mom and a short anecdote about her. The story can be good, bad, comic and/or tragic, like the woman who brought the vodka.
3. Bring a joke that would never be told by a woman in your grandmother’s day, and be prepared to tell it. Why? I have never heard a man say, “I can’t tell jokes; I screw them up,” even though women often say this. Guess what? Many men can’t tell a joke, but it doesn’t stop them, even though I sometimes wish it would. I aspired to help women get over their years of being told, “Women aren’t funny.” Oh, yeah? Watch this!
I met each of the 23 W.E.D. guests at the door and draped them in a necklace with a famous woman flashcard on it. I then swung it around so the card was on their back, where only the other guests could see it. We introduced ourselves, and as an ice breaker we played 12 questions regarding the woman on our back or, more accurately, whose back had carried us forward. Ice and invisibility broken quickly! After all, history is learned more eagerly when it’s fun, right?
Please join me in the movement to have Aug. 26 declared a national voting holiday. A day devoted to registering people to vote is what is precisely needed and wanted in these times. And there are no holidays in August! For the more materialistic among us, August could use a reason to buy cards and gifts. Are you listening Hallmark, American Greetings and Jacquie Lawson?
While Memorial Day and Veterans Day commemorate those we lost to war, no other holidays celebrate peaceful, nonviolent social change. Let the suffragists become an icon for just that! Gandhi watched the suffrage activists in England, the United States and New Zealand and got many of his ideas about civil disobedience and nonviolence from watching the gals.
It’s astounding to consider how a committed number of very human, very vulnerable, nonvoting women worked tirelessly to get the vote for all women, knowing they may never get to vote themselves. They were every color, every background, every level of education. They knew human rights for women started with the vote. They demonstrated that a generous, wise human being is the kind of person who will plant a tree, even if they know they’ll never enjoy its shade or its fruit.
Meanwhile, also consider having a viewing party of “Iron Jawed Angels on HBO Max, which aptly demonstrates the courage of the foremothers whose shoulders we stand on. It’s also a tribute to “my, how times change,” as around 30 years ago, I pitched a similar idea about female suffrage to Lorimar Television for a Movie of the Week. I was told the subject matter was too boring; not enough people care about women’s history. Flash forward to 2020 to 2021 and the wealth of mainstream coverage there has been on the centennial of women winning the vote. I am buoyed by this and dismayed by how the same bastards are still trying to disenfranchise us.
Do something to celebrate this year’s W.E.D! Toast Molly Murphy MacGregor for making us all more aware of women’s history. Bake a cake, tweet a remembrance to women and girls, burn a bra. On this date, remember and honor the suffragists any way you can.
Ellen Snortland has written commentary for decades. She also teaches creative writing and can be reached at email@example.com.