Civil Rights (Women)


The struggle for women’s equality and civil rights started early in the Philadelphia region as women organized for education, property ownership, political power, economic opportunity, and freedom. In the colonial era, Quakers took the vanguard in women’s rights among European settlers by promoting women as ministers and overseers of discipline within the Society of Friends. Nevertheless, William Penn (1644-1718) and other founders of West New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware followed English common law and culture to block women from suffrage, participation in government, control of property and wages, and guardianship of children. Many affluent colonists on both sides of the Delaware River denied enslaved women and men an even broader spectrum of human rights. During the revolutionary and antebellum periods, however, female organizations demanded women’s rights and the abolition of slavery. Their efforts provided a foundation for the 1920 ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment for woman suffrage and the feminist movements of the late twentieth century. 

Photograph of Alison Turnbull holding a sign stating "Mr. President how long must women wait for liberty?" outside of the White House.
During the Silent Sentinels protest, an initiative of Mount Laurel, New Jersey, resident Alice Paul and the National Woman’s Party, suffrage activists picketed the White House silently while carrying signs with provocative writing. Pictured here in January 1917 is Alison Turnbull Hopkins of Morristown, New Jersey, carrying a sign with the text “Mr. President how long must women wait for liberty?” directed at Woodrow Wilson and his inaction on women’s suffrage. (Library of Congress)

Among Lenapes who dominated the region when European colonizers arrived in the 1600s, women and men held equal status while performing different social and economic roles. Women nurtured children and worked as agriculturalists, controlling arable land and the distribution of corn and other food they produced, while men hunted, fished, and provided military defense. Within their matrilineal communities, elder women supervised the succession from one sakima (or leader) to the next through the maternal line. Evidence is limited about how frequently Lenape women served as sakima because male European colonialists generally failed to note if they negotiated with women, but some documents indicated female participation in treaties. For example, the female sakima Ojroqua (c. 1640-1700) with other Lenape leaders attended a 1670 conference with representatives of James, Duke of York (1633-1701) and signed land conveyances in 1677 to the West Jersey proprietors and, in 1678, to Elizabeth Kinsey (c. 1660-1720) for Petty Island. 

European immigrants brought to North America a gender ideology built on contradictory concepts that women were inferior to men yet fully capable of fulfilling male responsibilities when necessary. Europeans viewed men as dominant and central, while women held subordinate, marginal characteristics and roles. The English common law and political culture employed this ideology to deny women equal economic, political, and legal rights. When a couple married, under the concept of unity of person (coverture), the wife legally became a feme covert, yielding to the husband her independent rights to buy and sell property, make a will, enter into contracts, control her earnings, claim the value of her contributions to joint business ventures, sue in court, and act as legal guardian of their children. An unmarried woman, whether single or widowed, could take these actions as feme sole, and a married woman could assume this authority if her husband became incapacitated or was absent for a long period of time. During the colonial period, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware followed the English common law to reserve a widow’s right to dower, or one-third of the couple’s real estate, during her lifetime, regardless of whether the husband left a will. If he died intestate, she also received one-third of personal estate, but he could deny her that portion if he wrote a will.  

The System of Perpetual Enslavement

Ona Judge, born c. 1773 on Mount Vernon in Virginia, was enslaved in Pennsylvania while serving the family of George Washington during his presidency. In 1796 she had escaped enslavement to New Hampshire. The Washingtons published this advertisement to find her and bring her back to enslavement. (Wikimedia Commons)

Enslaved women and girls in the Delaware Valley, of whom most were Black people brought from Africa and the West Indies but also included some Native Americans from the Carolinas, endured forced labor as domestic servants, cooks, and agricultural workers. Under the system of perpetual bondage, enslaved people in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware could not own property, obtain wages, or decide where they would live and work. They often suffered inadequate food, clothing, and shelter, and had no right to marry, exert parental authority, or receive justice in the courts. In particular, Black women were subjected to rape and other physical assault by their enslavers and neighboring whites, with no protections under the law. As mothers, they faced exploitation for both their labor and reproductive capabilities, as their children added to the enslavers’ income and estate and could be sold away at any time. Provincial laws impeded the path to freedom: Pennsylvania required enslavers to post a £30 bond before manumitting a Black woman, man, or child; Delaware mandated bonds of £30 to £60; and New Jersey demanded £200 bonds. The colonies subjected free Black women and men to some legal restrictions placed on enslaved people, and New Jersey prevented Black people from owning land. 

Despite Philadelphia’s central role as host to the Continental Congress and the famous advice of Abigail Adams (1744-1818) to her husband John Adams (1735-1826) to “remember the ladies” by ending coverture in drafting new laws, the American Revolution had little immediate impact on women’s economic and political rights. The states generally followed English common law in sustaining coverture and the widow’s lifetime share of one-third of real estate. American lawmakers ignored women’s contributions to the military and home front, defining political participation and suffrage as male prerogatives. New Jersey was a partial exception as its 1776 constitution allowed female property holders to vote until the legislature removed that power in 1807. 

Revolutionary rhetoric for liberty from British oppression intersected with vigorous Black resistance and Quaker opposition to enslavement, influencing Pennsylvania legislators to pass the 1780 act for gradual abolition. New Jersey waited until 1804 to enact a similar law, while Delaware adopted none. The Pennsylvania act freed children born after March 1, 1780, to enslaved mothers, requiring long terms as indentured servants. Nevertheless, thousands of Black women and men throughout the United States obtained release or escaped enslavement during and after the Revolution, many establishing homes in Philadelphia and its hinterland. Ona Judge (1773-1848), for example, fled her enslavers President George Washington (1732-99) and Martha Washington (1731-1802) in Philadelphia in 1796 when she learned that they intended to transfer her to their granddaughter in Virginia. Judge gained assistance from members of the city’s growing free Black community as she escaped by ship to New Hampshire to avoid recapture. 

Women Form Civic Associations

Portrait of Esther DeBerdt Reed
Esther de Berdt Reed, pictured here in a c. 1785 painting by Charles Willson Peale, is believed to have written “Sentiments of An American Woman,” a short broadside describing the patriotism of women during the revolutionary era and advocating for equality in the newly formed government. (Wikimedia Commons)

With the governmental shift during the American Revolution, women sought responsibilities as equal citizens in the new republic. Barred from standing for office or, in most jurisdictions, from voting, they formed civic associations to promote political and social goals such as assisting the Continental Army, benevolence, temperance, abolition of enslavement, and women’s rights. In 1780, Esther DeBerdt Reed (c. 1746-80), wife and political collaborator of Joseph Reed (1741-85), president of Pennsylvania’s Supreme Executive Council, published her essay “The Sentiments of an American Woman.” Believing women had full-fledged political roles as citizens, DeBerdt Reed called together the Ladies Association of Philadelphia to canvass for funds door-to-door for the Continental Army. When she urged women in other states to follow suit, schoolteacher Mary Dagworthy (1748-1814) of Trenton inspired women from thirteen counties to join the New Jersey Association and solicit funds. 

In December 1833, a group of energetic African American and white women established the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society (PFASS), asserting women’s right to work collectively for social, legal, and economic change. Like other supporters of William Lloyd Garrison (1805-79), they promoted immediate emancipation and an end to discrimination against free Black people. Among the group’s activists were Black leaders Margaretta Forten (1806-75), Harriet Forten Purvis (1810-75), and Sarah Mapps Douglass (1806-82); Quakers Lucretia Mott (1793-1880) and Sarah Pugh (1800-84); and Mary Grew (1813-96), of a Baptist family. PFASS members initially circulated antislavery petitions and recruited members by hosting speakers. Over time, when Congress rejected petitions and Garrisonian abolitionists shunned politics, PFASS members focused on their annual fair, where they sold needlework and farm produce of abolitionist women and men throughout southeastern Pennsylvania and southwestern New Jersey. By contributing a large portion of the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society’s budget, PFASS gained leadership positions for Mott, Pugh, and Grew in the male-dominated state organization.  

In the late 1840s and 1850s, PFASS members also played a vital role in launching the women’s rights movement, as Lucretia Mott joined Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902) in assembling the Seneca Falls, New York, convention. Stanton wrote the 1848 Declaration of Sentiments, modeled on the Declaration of Independence (1776), protesting the denial of women’s suffrage; participation in government; ownership of property; equality in separation and divorce; access to well-paying employment, colleges, and education in the professions; and leadership in most religions. The signers insisted that women receive all rights as equal citizens, noting that anything less destroyed their self-confidence and self-respect. This first feminist movement organized through state and national conventions, attracting large audiences to hear speakers on relevant issues. Philadelphian Sarah Tyndale (1792-1859), a wealthy businesswoman and reformer, served as vice president at the first national convention in 1850 in Worcester, Massachusetts. Mott presided in 1852 at the first Pennsylvania convention in West Chester and, in 1854, with Sarah Pugh organized the fifth national convention at Sansom Street Hall in Philadelphia.  

Married Women’s Property Act of 1848

Photograph of Alice Paul sewing a star onto a flag.
Alice Paul, a native to Mount Laurel, New Jersey, became a prominent advocate for women’s right to vote in both the United Kingdom and the United States. Known for innovative forms of protest and dedication to the cause, Paul is pictured here in 1920, sewing the thirty-sixth star onto the Suffrage Ratification Banner, which represented states that had ratified the Nineteenth Amendment. (Library of Congress)

In response to women’s rights activists, increasing urbanization, and demographic and economic change, state legislatures gradually addressed inequities in married women’s property rights. In Pennsylvania, for example, lawmakers passed the Married Women’s Property Act of 1848, stipulating that wives owned personal property they brought into a marriage and received afterwards, such as rents on their real estate. They could also independently write wills. The law did not give a married woman freedom to sell her real estate without the husband’s permission but confirmed that he needed her consent before he attempted a sale. Women’s rights reformers considered the 1848 Pennsylvania law a positive step, but they protested in 1855 when the legislature rejected the right of wives to control their earnings. The lawmakers reversed this decision in 1872 but still required women to file in local court their intentions to keep their separate wages. Through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, legislatures and courts wrestled over women’s economic rights versus the ideology of marital unity, gradually granting women more autonomy through piecemeal reforms. 

Gaining the right to vote required much energy and resilience before ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Lucretia Mott served as president of the American Equal Rights Association, which formed in 1866 but split three years later over the issue of whether Black men should receive the vote before all women. The American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA) supported the Fifteenth Amendment extending the vote to Black men (ratified in 1870), while the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA) opposed its approval without the franchise for women. The New Jersey Woman Suffrage Association, established in Vineland in 1867, and the Pennsylvania Woman Suffrage Association, founded in Philadelphia in 1869, allied with AWSA. After Congress rejected an amendment for woman suffrage in 1887, the NWSA and AWSA united in 1890 to form the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), which crusaded with other societies for women’s vote at the state and local levels. 

Referenda in 1915 for woman suffrage in Pennsylvania and New Jersey failed, while Delaware offered the vote only to women taxpayers in school elections. The suffragist Alice Paul (1885-1977), of Mount Laurel, New Jersey, who earned degrees at Swarthmore College and the University of Pennsylvania, then propelled the movement forward at the national level. With other members of the Congressional Union, Paul adopted strategies from English suffragists, including rallies, parades, and vigils. After Congress passed the woman suffrage amendment on June 4, 1919, Pennsylvania ratified it within the month, but the New Jersey legislature waited until February 1920. Delaware rejected the amendment in 1920 and did not ratify until three years later, even though the Nineteenth Amendment gained the number of states needed for approval by August 1920.  

Beyond the Nineteenth Amendment

Although many activists were satisfied with adoption of the Nineteenth Amendment, Alice Paul refused to stop fighting for women’s rights. In opposition to reformers such as Florence Kelley (1859-1932) of Philadelphia, who favored protective legislation for women workers, Paul and other members of the National Woman’s Party in 1923 drafted the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to incorporate into the U.S. Constitution an unequivocal statement of equal rights regardless of sex. They lobbied until 1972, when Congress adopted the amendment and sent it to the states for ratification. Although Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and twenty-seven other states endorsed the ERA within a year, the measure failed ratification by the required three-fourths of states.  

Economic change in the greater Philadelphia region from the nineteenth century to the post-World War II era highlighted the need for the ERA and inspired increasing numbers of women to fight for equal rights. In the 1800s, working-class women and girls worked as domestic servants and helped to industrialize the region in textile, garment, and other manufacturing. Despite low wages, women’s earnings outside the home or from hosting boarders and manufacturing within the household provided essential support for their families. In the early twentieth century, female garment workers participated in strikes to obtain higher incomes and improve conditions. Black working-class women continued to face harsh discrimination in education and business so labored primarily in domestic service, despite growing opportunities for white women in clerical and sales positions. World War II created openings for women in heavy industry and armaments that disappeared when the war ended. As described by Betty Friedan (1921-2006) in her influential The Feminine Mystique (1963), American culture in the 1950s idealized middle-class households with male breadwinners and dependent wives and children. Nevertheless, increasing educational opportunities and role models of individual women who broke through severe barriers in the professions and business inspired young women to challenge inequality and stereotypes. 

In the 1960s and 1970s, women’s rights advocates acted on many fronts to secure the powers and self-confidence that nineteenth-century feminists had demanded at Seneca Falls. In 1961, at the urging of Esther Peterson (1906-97), then Assistant Secretary of Labor for Women’s Affairs, President John F. Kennedy (1917-63) established the President’s Commission on the Status of Women (PCSW). Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962) chaired the commission, which included among its members Richard A. Lester (1908-97), a Princeton University professor, as vice-chairman, and Caroline F. Ware (1899-1990), a historian who had taught at the Bryn Mawr Summer School for Women Workers.  The commission promoted the right of women in all states to own businesses and property, control their own earnings, and serve on juries; its recommendations resulted in an executive order mandating equal job opportunity for women in federal contracts and the Equal Pay Act of 1963. Through the commission’s “Consultation on Negro Women,” Black professional women advised the PCSW to consider the impact of racism on Black families and women. The consultation made recommendations, such as raising the minimum wage and promoting unions for domestic and other service workers, that the PCSW failed to prioritize. Subsequently, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 provided a platform for gender equity, though the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) refused initially to hear sex discrimination cases.  

National Organization for Women

Philadelphia area women joined the National Organization for Women (NOW), which formed in 1966 to push the EEOC to fulfill its responsibilities under Title VII, then quickly added to its platform the ERA, reproductive rights, child care, and other goals. Ernesta Ballard (1920-2005), who served on the national NOW board, in 1968 organized local women to establish Philadelphia NOW. The Pennsylvania NOW started in 1971, assembling in 1973 in Philadelphia its first convention of state chapters. The Philadelphia chapter published the Philadelphia NOW Newsletter and worked toward a range of goals including ratification of the national ERA; adding an ERA to the Pennsylvania state constitution; ending sex discrimination in employment, politics, education, and public accommodations; repealing Pennsylvania’s restrictive abortion law; establishing government-funded child care; and improving women’s image in the media. 

In 1968, the group New York Radical Women rallied feminists from New York, New Jersey, and elsewhere to demonstrate at the Miss America pageant in Atlantic City, New Jersey. They threw what they called “instruments of female torture” such as girdles, bras, hair curlers, and Playboy magazines into a “freedom trash can,” gaining national publicity that helped to ignite the feminist movement in many cities. Philadelphia-area women in 1968 started consciousness-raising groups in which they gained motivation for collective action through discussions of how inequality and sexism affected their individual lives. 

Photograph of JoAnn Evansgardner addressing a crowd.
On August 26, 1970, the Philadelphia chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW), the Women’s Liberation Center, and many others celebrated Women’s Equality Day in Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia. JoAnn Evansgardner, a member of the national board of NOW, spoke to the crowd. (Special Collections Research Center, Temple University Libraries)

On August 26, 1970, Philadelphia NOW, the Women’s Liberation Center, and more than twenty other organizations celebrated Women’s Equality Day on the fiftieth anniversary of the woman suffrage amendment. In Rittenhouse Square, thousands of women and men heard speeches and talked to representatives of Philadelphia NOW, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Women United for Abortion Action, and other feminist groups. Media coverage energized the movement, leading to the growth of consciousness-raising groups throughout the region. The Women’s Liberation Center provided meeting space and networking opportunities in Philadelphia for radical feminist groups that women started in response to their subordination in male-dominated organizations. 

National Black Feminist Organization

While Black women helped to organize NOW, by 1973 feminists in New York City, including Florynce Kennedy (1916-2000) and Margaret Sloan-Hunter (1947-2004), became convinced that a new organization, the National Black Feminist Organization (NBFO), was needed to address the challenges facing working-class women of diverse ethnic backgrounds. The NBFO established chapters in cities across the U.S., including Philadelphia in 1975. Members of Philadelphia NOW and radical feminist groups collaborated to provide social services to women in the Philadelphia region, including literature and advice for finding jobs and health care, fighting sex discrimination, dealing with rape and sexual abuse, and transitioning through separation and divorce. Philadelphia feminists took the lead, building on the work of nineteenth-century reformers, in creating women-led agencies such as the Elizabeth Blackwell Health Center for Women, Women Organized Against Rape, Women’s Law Project, and Pennsylvania Program for Women and Girl Offenders. In 1976, these and other agencies created Women’s Way, the first coalition to raise funds for feminist social service organizations in the United States. 

By the early 2020s, a century after ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment for woman suffrage, the status of women remained mixed. While many women in the greater Philadelphia region had gained leadership in the arts, media, community service, healthcare, education, and business, and despite the important support of male allies, few women had reached high political office. No women had been elected to the U.S. Senate from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, or Delaware. In the U.S. House of Representatives, in 2023, Lisa Blunt Rochester (b. 1962) held the at-large seat for Delaware and four women represented districts in southeastern Pennsylvania, but none represented southern New Jersey. Pennsylvania has had no woman governor since the colonial period, while Delaware and New Jersey have each had one. The U.S. Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade (1973) in June 2022 highlighted the necessity of political power for achieving and protecting women’s rights. Movements such as Black Lives Matter and #MeToo, and lack of a national ERA, demonstrated how much change remained necessary.

Jean R. Soderlund, Professor of History emeritus at Lehigh University, is the author of Quakers and Slavery: A Divided Spirit (1985) and Lenape Country: Delaware Valley Society before William Penn (2015), for which she won the 2016 Philip S. Klein Book Prize from the Pennsylvania Historical Association. Her latest book, Separate Paths: Lenapes and Colonists in West New Jersey, was published in 2022 by Rutgers University Press. (Information current at time of publication.)

Copyright 2024, Rutgers University.


Hannah Callowhill Penn

Wikimedia Commons

Hannah Callowhill Penn was born in 1671 in Bristol, England, and married William Penn in 1696. Beginning in 1712, Penn suffered a series of strokes that incapacitated him from carrying out his duties to the Province of Pennsylvania. Hannah Callowhill Penn stepped up to handle family affairs, including administering the province for her husband until his death in 1718. As acting proprietor for eight years under terms of her husband’s will, she handled border disputes, managed conflicts between England and the province, and defended her right to proprietorship from her stepson William Penn Jr. despite being “but a woman.” Following her death in 1726, proprietorship of the province remained within her bloodline until the American Revolution.
Hannah Callowhill Penn’s tenure as proprietor made her the first woman “governor” of Pennsylvania, the only woman to hold such a position to this day.

Esther DeBerdt Reed

Wikimedia Commons

Esther de Berdt Reed, one of the first publicly political women within the American colonies, advocated for equality for women in the newly forming nation. Born in London in October 1746, in 1770 she moved to the colonies with her husband, Joseph Reed, an American who eventually became Pennsylvania’s representative in the Continental Congress and governor of Pennsylvania. Through her husband’s prestige, Reed had the ability to not only politically motivate women but also to directly influence the creation of the nation with the hope of expanding the involvement of women.
"Sentiments of an American Women,” although published anonymously, has been widely attributed to Reed. This short broadside described the patriotism of women during the revolutionary era and advocated for their equality in the newly formed government. Women in Philadelphia rallied around this document and formed the Ladies Association of Philadelphia, led by Reed. These women organized canvassing groups to go door to door and raise money for George Washington’s underfunded Continental Army. Together these thirty women collected over 300,000 Continental dollars, which were used to manufacture new clothes for the Army. Reed and the women of the Ladies Association inspired similar movements in New York City, Boston, and the countryside, most notably in New Jersey. For the New Jersey Association, more than seventy-eight women canvassed in thirteen New Jersey counties.
Reed’s actions within the political sphere demonstrated that women had the capacity to be involved as equal actors within the newly forming government of the United States.

Ona Judge

Wikimedia Commons

Born c. 1773 to Betty and Andrew Judge on the estate of George Washington in Virginia, Ona Judge was enslaved from birth. She spent her early life doing domestic work at Mount Vernon. During Washington’s tenure as President of the United States, Judge moved with the family.
Under the Pennsylvania Gradual Abolition Act of 1780, any enslaved person held in the state for over six months would be freed. Washington evaded this by rotating his enslaved laborers between the President’s House in Philadelphia and Mount Vernon in Virginia. To avoid prolonging her enslavement, Ona Judge escaped from Washington’s home in Philadelphia and eventually reached New Hampshire, where she evaded capture for the rest of her life. Following her escape in 1796, the Washingtons published this advertisement in the Pennsylvania Gazette to try to regain custody of her but were unsuccessful.

Alice Paul

Library of Congress

Alice Paul, who was born in 1885 in Mount Laurel, New Jersey, to a Hicksite Quaker family. began her activist career while doing social work in England. Paul joined the British suffrage demonstrators and ultimately ended up in jail and participating in their hunger strike.
In 1910, Paul returned to the United States and sought to implement many of the militant strategies from Britain into gaining the right to vote at home. She joined the National American Women’s Suffrage Association (NAWSA) and rapidly became a head of the Congressional Committee. NAWSA advocated implementing a women’s right to vote on the state level, but Paul believed the only way to tackle enfranchisement was head on at the federal level. This led her to create the National Women’s Party (NWA) with this primary goal in mind.
Pictured here in 1920, Paul is sewing stars onto the Suffrage Ratification Banner, representing every state that had ratified the Nineteenth Amendment. This composition is reminiscent of paintings of Betsy Ross sewing the American flag, evoking the patriotism of the American Revolution.

Silent Sentinels

Library of Congress

Conceived by Alice Paul, the founder of the National Woman’s Party, during the Silent Sentinels protest suffrage activists silently picketed outside of the White House to pressure President Woodrow Wilson to enshrine a woman’s right to vote in the Constitution. The protests took place from January 1917 until the Nineteenth Amendment passed through Congress in June 1919. Many women were arrested and imprisoned for their activism, including Alison Turnbull Hopkins of Morristown, New Jersey, pictured here in January 1917.
On January 10, 1917, Alice Paul and twelve other women from the National Woman’s Party started their picket line, immediately putting pressure on Woodrow Wilson with their silent stance outside of the White House. These women not only served as a reminder but also became an embarrassment to President Wilson over his negligence towards granting woman suffrage. Although the women would not speak, they made up for it with banners that often included straightforward, provocative, and persuasive sentences including phrases such as “Mr. President, how long must women wait for liberty” (displayed here on Hopkins’s banner). With the United States approaching active involvement in World War I, this silent protest began to be seen as unpatriotic and un-American, leading to the arrest of over 150 National Woman’s Party members. While in prison, these women staged hunger strikes to continue applying pressure. Eventually Wilson capitulated, initiating the process of constructing and implementing the Nineteenth Amendment.

National Women's Day

Special Collections Research Center, Temple University Libraries

On August 26, 1970, many women’s rights organizations gathered at Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, which granted women the right to vote. While this day had been celebrated for several years, August 26 officially became Women’s Equality Day by act of Congress in 1973.
In 1970, the Philadelphia chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW), the Women’s Liberation Center, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Women United for Abortion Action, and over twenty other feminist groups gathered in Philadelphia to celebrate and rally. JoAnn Evansgardner, pictured here speaking to a crowd at Rittenhouse Square, a Pennsylvania native who became heavily involved with civil rights movements, joined the NAACP in 1963 and NOW in 1968. Evansgardner participated in the Pittsburgh, regional, and national levels of NOW.
Women’s Equality Day continued to be celebrated in Philadelphia, including the 2020 celebration of the one-hundredth anniversary of the Nineteenth Amendment with events across the city.

Equal Rights Amendment

Special Collections Research Center, Temple University Libraries

On August 26, 1970, many women’s rights organizations gathered at Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, which granted women the right to vote. While this day had been celebrated for several years, August 26 officially became Women’s Equality Day by act of Congress in 1973.
In 1970, the Philadelphia chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW), the Women’s Liberation Center, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Women United for Abortion Action, and over twenty other feminist groups gathered in Philadelphia to celebrate and rally. JoAnn Evansgardner, pictured here speaking to a crowd at Rittenhouse Square, a Pennsylvania native who became heavily involved with civil rights movements, joined the NAACP in 1963 and NOW in 1968. Evansgardner participated in the Pittsburgh, regional, and national levels of NOW.
Women’s Equality Day continued to be celebrated in Philadelphia, including the 2020 celebration of the one-hundredth anniversary of the Nineteenth Amendment with events across the city.

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Related Reading

Boylan, Anne M. Votes for Delaware Women. Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2021. 

Greenwald, Maurine. “Women and Pennsylvania Working-Class History.” Pennsylvania History: A Journal of Mid-Atlantic Studies 63, no. 1 (1996): 5-16. 

Harris, Duchess. “From the Kennedy Commission to the Combahee Collective: Black Feminist Organizing, 1960-80.” In Sisters in the Struggle: African American Women in the Civil Rights-Black Power Movement, edited by Bettye Collier-Thomas and V. P. Franklin. New York: New York University Press, 2001. 

Hemphill, C. Dallett. Philadelphia Stories: People and Their Places in Early America. Edited by Rodney Hessinger and Daniel K. Richter. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2021. 

Higginbotham, Evelyn Brooks. “African-American Women’s History and the Metalanguage of Race.” In Feminism and History, edited by Joan Wallach Scott. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996. 

Ireland, Owen S. Sentiments of a British-American Woman: Esther DeBerdt Reed and the American Revolution. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2017. 

Lapsansky, Emma Jones and Marion W. Roydhouse. “Too Young, Too Strident, Too Radical, Too Dangerous: American Women Pursue Political Voice.” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 144, no. 3 (2020): 245-61.  

Lindman, Janet Moore, ed. Special Issues: Women’s and Gender History in Pennsylvania, Parts 1 and 2. Pennsylvania History: A Journal of Mid-Atlantic Studies 87, nos. 3 and 4 (2020). 

Shammas, Carole, Marylynn Salmon, and Michel Dahlin. Inheritance in America from Colonial Times to the Present. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1987. 

Smallcomb, Danielle M. “‘Women Were Happening and Everybody Knew It’: The Emergence and Growth of the Women’s Liberation Movement in Philadelphia, 1968-1982.” Ph.D. diss., Temple University, 2001. 

Yellin, Jean Fagan and John C. Van Horne, eds. The Abolitionist Sisterhood: Women’s Political Culture in Antebellum Reform. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1994. 

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