Women’s Equality Day

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.

Women's Rights Day Proclamation, 1972

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

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

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

Eleanor Roosevelt with Mary McLeod Bethune (center) at Bethune Cookman College, Daytona Beach, 1952

August 26: Women’s Equality Day

On September 12, 1972, Florida Senator Edward J. Gurney sent Roxcy Bolton a copy of the Women’s Rights Day Proclamation (now Women’s Equality Day) signed by President Richard M. Nixon. Gurney explained that he wanted her to have the document because “without your suggestion and pushing, there would not have been a Women’s Rights Day.”

Women’s Equality Day is observed nationally each year on August 26 to commemorate the day in 1920 that the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution was adopted, granting women full voting rights.

Edward J. Gurney to Roxcy Bolton, September 12, 1972

Edward J. Gurney to Roxcy Bolton, September 12, 1972

The newest film added to the Florida Memory website features a 2001 interview with Roxcy Bolton for Coral Gables Television. In the interview, Bolton talks about how her upbringing in Mississippi instilled values that paved the way for a life of determined activism. Bolton also discusses several instances from her life in Coral Gables that demonstrate her commitment to equality.

Roxcy Bolton

Roxcy Bolton

Bolton gained notoriety in Florida for establishing shelters for homeless and battered women; 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 assigning only female names to hurricanes; and for opening the influential Tiger Bay political club to women. Her many years of pioneering equal rights activism have earned her numerous awards, including induction into the Florida Women’s Hall of Fame in 1984.

Please join us in commemorating Women’s Equality Day and recognizing Roxcy Bolton’s role in the Equal Rights Movement.

Learn more about Roxcy Bolton on Florida Memory.