On the 80th anniversary of Congressional passage of the 19th Amendment, 74% of Americans do not even know when women won the right to vote according to a new national poll.
The poll, which was conducted by the New York-based Global Strategy Group, also found that a majority of Americans cannot identify the two women who were most responsible for creating the women's rights movement -- Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony -- and fail across the board when it comes to basic issues in women's history.
Ninety-three percent of Americans could not identify Stanton, the principal author of the Seneca Falls Declaration that gave birth to the women's rights movement and "The Women's Bible," as a women's rights activist. Among those surveyed with just a high school diploma, only 1% accurately identified her as a women's rights activist.
Even with the better known Susan B. Anthony, only one-third (36%) of those polled could identify her as a women's rights activist. Another 32% recognized her as being the woman on the dollar coin. Only half of all college graduates (51%) accurately identified Anthony as a women's rights activist compared to 38% of those who attended some college and 23% of high school graduates.
General Motors commissioned the poll to assess what American's know and don't know about women's history in order to develop an educational program to supplement the "General Motors Mark of Excellence Presentation" of Ken Burns' documentary "Not for Ourselves Alone: The Story of Elizabeth Cady Stanton & Susan B. Anthony."
"Imagine not knowing who George Washington or Abraham Lincoln were?" asked Ken Burns. "Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony not only won the right to vote for American women, though they didn't live to see it, but they broke the social, economic and cultural shackles that forced second-class citizenship on half of the population. They are, in my opinion, the two most important women in American history."
Not surprising, given that lack of awareness of Stanton and Anthony, nine in ten Americans (93%) could not identify the decade the women's rights movement began. Only seven percent correctly said the 1840s. Nearly half (49%) of Americans were under the impression that the women's rights movement began after 1900, with 11% saying it did not begin until after 1949.
Not only have Americans forgotten Stanton and Anthony, the poll concluded, they have forgotten the conditions these two women fought to overcome. Six in ten adults (60%) were not aware that women were barred from attending college until the 1840s. Just seven percent of adults knew that women were denied custody of their children in divorce cases throughout most of the 19th century.
Nearly three-quarters of Americans (72%) were unaware that throughout most of the 19th century women gave their husbands all of their economic rights (property, inheritance and wages) when they got married.
"What Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony achieved was nothing less than revolutionary," said Paul Barnes who co-produced "Not for Ourselves Alone" with Ken Burns. "They almost single handedly created the movement that not only won the vote, but won greater economic and cultural equality for all women and, as a result, all Americans. We can best re-pay the debt we owe them with a greater understanding of what they accomplished and how it remains relevant to our lives today."
While the poll found a limited knowledge of women's history, Americans are nonetheless optimistic that women will excel in diverse fields over the next thirty years. Eighty-six percent of those surveyed said women will excel in politics, compared to 92% in business, 88% in the sciences and 92% in the field of law.
As for equality, four in ten Americans said women today have less rights than men (34% somewhat less, eight percent a lot less). Just over one-third (35%) said that women and men have about the same rights as one another.
Seven in ten adults (69%) said the genders are equal in terms of getting promotions, 66% reported equality in gaining support to run for public office, and 62% agreed that there is equality in earning wages.
Nearly half (46%) said women were treated unequally in terms of who performs household chores. Another 44% of adults believed that men and women are treated unequally when it comes to taking care of the kids.