In 1971, the U.S. Congress designated August 26 as “Women’s Equality Day”, commemorating the 1920 adoption of the 19th Amendment which prohibited states and federal government from denying any citizen’s voting rights on the basis of sex. Although this law granted women the right to vote , many women of color still faced challenges and barriers which prevented them from fully embracing this opportunity. In fact, it wasn’t until the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that women of color could legally vote in the United States.
This disparity shows the importance of acknowledging intersectionality. Women’s experiences are not limited to the challenges of gender - they are also shaped by race, class, and the discrimination that follows.
Women’s Equality Day is a celebration of women around the world. Women from all backgrounds tand up for their communities and their rights, battling against injustice and inequality, and inspiring the new generations of women who come after them.
As part of our our month-long Minority Women Lead campaign, created to uplift the voices and stories of amazing professional women of color, we are celebrating Women’s Equality in our own way by shining a spotlight on activist leaders from the past and present.
Yuri Kochiyama (1921-2014)
Born in San Pedro, California, Yuri Kochiyama was a Japanese-American woman who studied English, Journalism, and Art in college. Her life was forever changed in 1941 when Pearl Harbor was bombed and her family was forcibly detained in a Japanese internment camp. In 1960, she made a home with her husband and children in the city of Harlem, where they became political activists for civil rights movements and racial equality. Yuri held close friendships with other prominent activists in the community, including Malcom X, Angela Davis, Robert F. Willams, and many more. In 2005 she was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. On June 6, 2014, after her death, the White House honored her on their website, praising her lifelong dedication to the “pursuit of social justice, not only for the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community, but all communities of color."
Sylvia Mendez (1936-Present)
Born in Santa Ana, California, Sylvia Mendez is an American civil rights activist of Mexican-Puerto Rican heritage. She grew up in a time when segregation was active and practiced. Mendez played an instrumental role in Mendez v. Westminster (1947) which challenged the unfair practice of Mexican school segregation. Their success would later pave the path for the landmark ruling of Brown v. Board of Education (1954) which ended school segregation in United States. Sylvia became a nurse and after her retirement, with the encouragement of her mother, traveled around the world educating others and sharing the story of her family and community. She has been a spokesperson at Berkeley schools, and inspired many students, teachers, and parents. On February 15, 2011, Sylvia was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States' highest civilian honor. She accepted the award in honor of her deceased parents, happy for the acknowledgement of their historic contribution.
Alicia Garza (1981-Present)
Born in Oakland, California, Alicia Garza is a Black American civil rights activist who helped to co-found the international Black Lives Matter movement that is still active today. She has engaged in activism all throughout school, and even helped organize the first Women of Color Conference at UCSD in 2002. She has published many editorial articles for prominent newsletters including: The Guardian, The Feminist Wire, and Rolling Stone. Alicia has given many inspiring speeches and participated in active protests. She is the co-creator of the