I woke up Sunday and rushed to social media hoping to find moving tributes and birthday memorials to American hero Susan B. Anthony.

When there were none, I realized the importance of a proposal to create a national holiday in her honor.

Some have asked, “What’s the big deal?” and “Do we really need another federal holiday?” Our nation has elected to honor Christopher Columbus and continues to entertain several bills to create a national holiday for labor leader Cesar Chavez.

So I am inclined to believe Anthony’s historic role in creating the first women’s rights movement in the U.S. makes her deserving of the designation. As time passes, I worry the legacy of the abolitionist, suffragist, labor advocate and educational reformer could be lost on future generations.

So why has H.R. No. 655, also known as “The Susan B. Anthony Birthday Act,” failed to pass in Congress?

A Fox News editorial written by Phyllis Chesler questioned the issue noted New York, Wisconsin, Florida, California and West Virginia officially celebrated the birthday of the women’s rights advocate until her death in 1906.

“When Anthony began the fight for women’s equality, married women had to hand over their wages to their husbands. Their inherited property and their children belonged to their husbands, as well,” Chesler reminded.

“Unwanted wives were sometimes gotten rid of by being locked away in mental asylums. Women could not attend college, law or medical school. Only single women could enter into contracts. Women had no political ‘voice’ in the matters that related to their own destiny.”

In a weekly poll, Fox News asked average citizens who Anthony was, and only 38 percent accurately responded. While I grew up with an admiration for her legacy along with her contemporary, Frederick Douglass, I was not surprised by the responses of fellow Americans. She represents an era of civil rights that could easily be forgotten by my generation.

This is one reason why I surround myself with former members of the ERA and women’s suffrage movement. I love to hear stories about what they were able to accomplish. And the revolutionary in me can’t dismiss George Santayana’s famous warning: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

I’ve even invited myself to a “reunion” of local women’s caucus leaders in order to learn more about their tribulations and victories. Granted, most of them did not face threats like those hurled at Anthony. The sojourner encountered hostile mobs opposed to her efforts. Once, her body was hung in effigy and dragged through the streets of a community where she was distributing posters and leaflets. However, she continued working to end oppression for more than 50 years.

But “not forgetting” is just one of the reasons I cherish time with women from the caucus and ERA. There is also a part of me that wants to answer a question posed to me by my good friend, Ann Holbrooks, when she handed me her copy of the PBS series “Makers: Women Who Make America.” The film features trailblazing women throughout history. I am not quoting Ann exactly, but her sentiment was something along the lines of “This is what my generation has done. Now what will yours do?”

I don’t have the answer to Ann’s question, but it resonates with me as we approach Women’s History Month. I watched the documentary in celebration of Anthony’s birthday and listened closely as seasoned career professionals, wives, mothers, feminists and those who refuse to be classified described their collective commitment to what I believe keeps America true to the values we claim to uphold.

Some may lament women represent yet another group that had to fight to be included in the “certain unalienable rights” upheld by the U.S. constitution, but it encourages me that our system will work whenever motivated people unite for a common cause. That truth is demonstrated so vividly throughout American history, and Anthony’s birthday should be affirmation to American ideals. And after reading some of her quotes I’m inclined to think Anthony would not want this to be a celebration about her.

“Sooner or later we all discover that the important moments in life are not the advertised ones, not the birthdays, the graduations, the weddings, not the great goals achieved. The real milestones are less prepossessing. They come to the door of memory unannounced, stray dogs that amble in, sniff around a bit and simply never leave. Our lives are measured by these.” — Susan B. Anthony
After fighting for years, she never had the opportunity to celebrate the victory of the movement that her life is often measured by. The visionary Anthony died in 1906 before the 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote, which passed in 1919. That’s all the more reason to honor Anthony’s life’s work and accomplishments by remembering on her birthday that there has been and continues to be those who make great sacrifices to ensure our equal treatment.

Happy belated birthday to a true American hero.
Freelance journalist Antionette Kerr is a correspondent for The Lexington (N.C.) Dispatch. You may email her at antionettekerr@alumni.unc.edu.