A Joint Resolution of Congress in 1971 designated August 26th of each year as Women’s Equality Day and requested the President to issue a proclamation annually to commemorate that day. That Joint Resolution resulted in this 1972 Proclamation issued by President Richard Nixon.
The Proclamation was later presented to Roxcy O’Neal Bolton, the driving force behind the designation of August 26 as Women’s Equality Day.
Letter from Senator Edward J. Gurney to Roxcy Bolton, September 12, 1972
A long-time Coral Gables resident and a 1984 inductee in the Florida Women’s Hall of Fame, Bolton is known in Florida for gaining access for women to the previously all-male lunchrooms at Burdines and Jordan Marsh department stores; for helping to end the practice of naming hurricanes only for women; and for opening the influential Tiger Bay political club to women.
Bolton was inspired by Eleanor Roosevelt’s stances on civil rights and was profoundly affected by her address at the 1956 Democratic National Convention, hearing her call to “help all of our people to a better life” as a personal call to action.
Roxcy Bolton with Eleanor Roosevelt at the Democratic National Convention, Chicago, 1956
Roosevelt, who was a strong proponent of gender equality and supporter of working women, had her own sources of inspiration, including from Floridians. She met Mary McLeod Bethune at an education conference in 1927, gaining from her an understanding of racial issues and becoming a close friend of Bethune’s.
Eleanor Roosevelt with Mary McLeod Bethune (center) at Bethune Cookman College, Daytona Beach, 1952
Today is the birthday of educator and civil rights leader Mary McLeod Bethune.
Mary McLeod Bethune in front of White Hall
Check out the resources on Florida Memory to learn more about the impact of Mary McLeod Bethune on education and civil rights in Florida.
Educator and civil rights activist Mary McLeod Bethune was born on July 10, 1875, in Mayesville, South Carolina. Mary was one of 16 children born to former slaves Samuel and Patsy McIntosh McLeod.
Birthplace of Mary McLeod Bethune: Mayesville, South Carolina (late 1800s)
After completing her studies at the Moody Bible Institute, Bethune moved to Daytona Beach, Florida, in 1904 to start her own school. She taught reading, writing and home economics to African-American girls in a one-room schoolhouse. Bethune’s modest school eventually became the Daytona Normal and Industrial School for Negro Girls.
Mary McLeod Bethune with a line of girls from her school: Daytona Beach, Florida (ca. 1905)
In 1931, the institution started by Mary McLeod Bethune became Bethune-Cookman College. Learn more about the life and achievements of Mary McLeod Bethune, including the founding of Bethune-Cookman College and her impact on civil rights, on Florida Memory.
Mary McLeod Bethune (ca. 1904)
UPDATE: On Tuesday, February 28, 2012, Governor Rick Scott announced the first inductees into the Florida Civil Rights Hall of Fame: Mary McLeod Bethune, Claude Denson Pepper and Charles Kenzie Steele. Established by the Florida Legislature in 2010, the Florida Civil Rights Hall of Fame recognizes individuals who made significant contributions in furthering civil rights for all Floridians.