By Elaine Voci, Phd, Certified Lifecycle Celebrant®, Life Coach, Author
“Our history is our strength” is the slogan for the National Women’s History Project (NWHP), and it underscores that history teaches us who we are, and when we don’t know our history, our power, and our potential are lessened or lost. The Project has been a consistent force for ensuring that girls and women know the role women have played in American history. So when Congress passed a resolution in 1971 that every year on August 26th the country would commemorate Women’s Equality Day, the Project has been a catalyst, organizer, promoter, and advocate for that event.
The date was selected to memorialize the 1920 certification of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution which granted women the right to vote. That significant milestone followed a massive civil rights movement by women that had it beginnings in 1848 at the first women’s rights convention held in Seneca Falls, New York.
What are some ways to celebrate and mark this special day with the help of Celebrants in your area of the country? Here are two examples of events that can be offered in your community with the help of a local celebrant, local artists and low-cost materials available at NWHP:
(1) Performance Art Story-telling Event – Costumed performance actresses portray some of the historic, strong women, famous and infamous, from related periods of history such as Laura Ingalls Wilder and Mary Todd Lincoln. These historical presentations take history off the page and allow the audience to interact with characters. On the site of the Women’s History project is a drop-down menu that lists the names of local women actors per state who are trained in historical presentations and have spent years of research and writing about a specific woman or women’s history topic.
Each informative, educational presentation is about 40 minutes in length (not including time allotted for a Q&A session afterward), and can be tailored to meet the specific needs of audiences. For example, the popular Laura Ingalls Wilder presentation teaches children what daily life was like out on the prairie in the late 19th century. Dressed in period costumes, history comes alive!
Celebrants can help organizers of the event by creating a special opening ceremony to set the tone for the event and facilitate a closing ritual to integrate key learnings of the presentation and personalize the history of women’s struggles for equality.
(2) Women’s Equality Day Program for a Women’s Book Club – Celebrants can support the host’s intentions for the book club event, helping to craft both an opening and closing ritual to surround the main event – a luncheon during which the host can provide the PowerPoint presentation to book club members, and lead a group discussion of related topics. Celebrants can suggest music and poetry for various parts of the gathering, and coordinate a central theme which can be reflected in the menu, the invitations, and the process.
Hosts can purchase a $50 kit from the National Women’s History Project and find everything needed for an educational, entertaining, and successful Women’s Equality Day Program. The kit makes it easy to present an informative program and includes an exclusive Women’s Equality Day poster; placemats; bookmarks; red and blue balloons; and 25 copies of the How Women Won the Vote Gazette newspapers. There is also a “How Women Won the Vote” PowerPoint, a 20-minute PowerPoint presentation, with script, that emphasizes the grit and determination of American suffragists trying to win state elections over a 50-year period.
The services of a celebrant can make any “packaged” program into a more meaningful and personalized event for participants. Their expertise in the art of ceremony makes them a natural fit for adding rites, rituals, and ceremonies into community events that will long be remembered by participants. Since many celebrants are women, they can also naturally add a “woman’s touch” to celebrations of women’s equality events.