Women’s Equality Day will be celebrated on August 26th to commemorate the 1920 adoption of the 19th amendment to the United States Constitution, which prohibits the states and the federal government from denying the right to vote to citizens of the United States on the basis of sex.
Eyewitness News’ Brad Byrd talks to Roberta Heiman and Barbara Williams about women’s equality and an upcoming event celebrating the 19th amendment.
Brad Byrd: Welcome to In Depth. Women’s Equality Day will be celebrated on August 26th to commemorate the 1920 adoption of the 19th amendment to the United States Constitution. It prohibits the states and the federal government from denying the right to vote to citizens of the United States on the basis of sex. Joining me tonight are Roberta Heiman, a journalist and facilitator for The League of Women Voters and Evansville attorney Barbara Williams of Stepping Up, which will be holding a luncheon Friday, August 23rd celebrating this milestone. Both are Albion Fellows Bacon Award winners. Thank you very much for being with me tonight. Obviously, a milestone coming up in 2020 – it will be the 100th anniversary. Equality – it only goes so far; we’ve accomplished a lot – there’s a lot to do yet – tell me your feelings about that.
Barbara Williams: There’s still a lot to do. We do want to celebrate the amendment was passed 100 years ago. Our organization has done this luncheon for the last 17 years or so and I think every time I go; I learn a little bit more about the struggles going on back then. But there are still so many things we need to work on, with respect to wages and childcare and freedom of fear for things that happen in the workplace.
Brad Byrd: Roberta, you tell me your grandmother represented the first generation of —
Roberta Heiman: Well, yes, she did.
Brad Byrd: And it was the dynamics of our country changed so much with this, what was the real impact of this going into the middle part of the century.
Roberta Heiman: Well, one thing people don’t realize is the suffragettes didn’t struggle those seven decades just to go vote on election day. They wanted to bring about change. Among those, one of their priorities, was to end child labor. Another was they were campaigning for equal pay for equal work. They wanted more fair divorce laws; they wanted the right for women to own their property. Before then, women gave up their rights to property even to the wages they earned – they got married – their wages were their husbands. No wonder they wanted change. The only way they were going to bring about change was to be able to vote.
Brad Byrd: Another woman who has affected change, from her base in Washington D.C. in the Supreme Court, has had impact on women here in the Tri-State and men for that matter is Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Your impression of this iconic, strong woman.
Barbara Williams: She’s clearly a hero of mine, a role model and I think we’re all familiar with her story with the book and the special movie and that sort of thing. But her body of work before she became a judge, she brought about equal benefits in the workplace. She believed the laws should be applied fairly – and not take into account sexual discrimination.
Brad Byrd: And your impression of this woman.
Roberta Heiman: There’s a reason she’s become a hero, even to young people today. Have you seen the documentary that was done on her?
Brad Byrd: Yes.
Roberta Heiman: What a tremendous leader she was. One of the things – now she wasn’t the first woman on the Supreme Court – I think she was the second one. But bringing that issue home, Vanderburgh County we have 8 judges, but only one female judge has ever been elected in Vanderburgh County. That’s 100 years after women got the right to vote.
Brad Byrd: And you’ve got two speakers for the luncheon coming up on August 23rd. Two very influential speakers – two influential women in the state of Indiana. But they’re on different sides of the aisle. And this is kind of refreshing, why is that?
Roberta Heiman: I think it illustrates that the women’s movement is and always has been an equal right’s movement. We have a Republican and a Democrat – women working together – black and white – we can work together in legislative bodies, as lawmakers, as representatives of the public.
Barbara Williams: Democratic State Senator Jean Breaux, I think she’s from Indianapolis and our own Vaneta Becker – Senator for many years. They’ve worked together on legislature over the years. And I think that’s one of the things they’re going to be talking about.
Roberta Heiman: How to work together.
Brad Byrd: And the Albion Fellows Bacon Award winners this year will be Maddy Miller and Jingle Eigelhardt Haggie – I know Maddy from many years back, they’re special in this movement in what way?
Barbara Williams: Jingle Haguey is getting the Unsung Hero Award – she’s involved in everything that goes on in Evansville and has been for many years. Very well deserved.
Roberta Heiman: One of the founders of the Women’s Fund.
Brad Byrd: And Maddy Miller so critical with the education.
Roberta Heiman: Both of them opened doors….
Barbara Williams: Opened doors for women in our community.
Brad Byrd: Roberta Heiman and Barbara Williams thank you for joining me tonight.
(This story was originally published on August 12, 2019)