GUEST BLOG: Celebrating Women’s Equality Day

The City of Wilmington’s Equity & Inclusion Office Offers a Brief History of the Historic Day

The City of Wilmington completed a small project interviewing women and creating a video for Women’s Equality Day. A few brave volunteers spoke to us about their work here at the city, things they have experienced in their careers, and how their work improves the city and the lives of people in Wilmington. Thank you to our folks in Communication, and their newest and very talented videographer, Scott Walls, for their work.


On August 26, 2022 America celebrates Women’s Equality Day.  It is the anniversary of the date in America when some women’s struggle for suffrage was finally rewarded. The 19th Amendment allowing women to vote had been ratified on August 18, 1920, when Harry T. Burn, a Tennessee state legislator, cast the deciding vote for ratification. The amendment officially became law on August 26 when U.S. Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby signed the proclamation into law. As of that moment, “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex,” became official law. North Carolina did not vote to ratify the 19th Amendment until 1971. Only Mississippi voted to ratify it later than that in 1974.

The struggle for suffrage was long and often violent. The final years of the struggle involved women being imprisoned in the Occoquan Workhouse, where many experienced abuse and force feeding, culminating in the Night of Terror. While the 19th Amendment disallowed discrimination based on sex, it did not deal with the racial and ethnic discrimination faced by many women in America. African American, Native American, Asian American, and Latinas would have to continue to fight for their suffrage. Learn more about the fight for suffrage in North Carolina with this episode of Cape Fear Unearthed.


African American women faced vicious racism within the suffrage movement. Black women such as Sojourner Truth and Ida B. Wells were excluded from white suffrage organizations and parades, and racist rhetoric was commonly employed by Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, as they opposed passage of the 15th Amendment which would give Black men the vote before white women. Additionally, African American women were met with brutal opposition when attempting to vote. Florida educator and civil rights activist Mary McLeod Bethune spent 1920 travelling across the state encouraging Black women to register despite the opposition. In 1922, the night before the 1922 elections, the Klan terrorized the women on the campus of Bethune’s women’s boarding school. Bethune stood her ground, and she showed up at the Daytona polls along with more than 100 other Black women. Black women’s fight for the right to vote, which began in the early 1800s, and continued with the efforts of women such as Ella Baker, Fannie Lou Hamer, and Unita Blackwell helped win passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. This law makes discrimination at the polls based on race illegal.

Barden, Albert. [The headquarters of the North Carolina Equal Suffrage Association, Raleigh, NC]. Photograph. c.1910s-1920s. Raleigh, N.C.: Barden Collection, State Archives of North Carolina

In 1920, Native Americans were not even considered citizens. However, the activism of Native women such as Zitkála-Šá lead to the passage of the Snyder Act in 1924, granting citizenship to Native Americans. However, it would take a state-by-state battle for Indigenous Americans to win the right to vote. In 1962 Utah became the final state to grant Indigenous people the right to vote.

Puerto Rican suffragists like Luisa Capetillo fought to get all Puerto Rican women the vote in 1935. Meanwhile in California, Latina suffragist Maria Guadalupe Evangelina de Lopez fought for women’s access to the vote without literacy tests and other language requirements designed to stop Latinas from voting. It took a 1975 extension of the Voting Rights Act, prohibiting discrimination against language minority citizens, to expand voting access to women who rely heavily on languages other than English.

While American-born Asian Americans were considered citizens by 1920, Asian populations such as the Chinese were barred from voting because of the Chinese Exclusion Act. Activists such as Dr. Mabel Ping-Hua Lee worked to end the Chinese Exclusion Act, and in 1943, the act was overturned and Chinese Americans were granted the right to vote. In 1944  Tye Leung Schulze became the first Chinese woman to cast a vote in America.


While on August 26 we celebrate the ratification of the 19th Amendment, it is important to also remember those whose struggle continued long past 1920, and honor and celebrate their legacies. In 1971, New York Representative Bella Abzug called for a national proclamation declaring August 26th Women’s Equality Day. In 1973 that call was honored, and we have been celebrating Women’s Equality Day for 49 years. In those years women have continued to fight for full equality by battling for equal pay and fair policies in employment, the right to wear pants in public, the end of the practice of having to sign “baby letters” upon employment, the right to have credit cards and mortgages in their own name, the right to control their own bodies, an equal share of political power, and universal childcare, to name just a few. These efforts for equality continue today. To learn more about this history, check out Gail Collins’ wonderfully anecdotal book When Everything Changed.


The City of Wilmington is proud of its employees who identify as women. However, we know we have room to grow. The city employs 1,052 active employees, of those 266 identify as women. If we view those numbers through an intersectional lens, we see we only have 39 women who identify as African Americas, 12 who identify as Hispanic, and 7 who identify as Asian/Pacific Islander/Indian/Indigenous. While the numbers are not as large as we would like, their impact is huge, especially in budget, finance, planning and development, and human resources, where the number of women employees are higher than those of men. However, women are to be found in departments all over the city. Their jobs range from public administration at the highest levels to frontline workers in predominantly male fields. Take a moment to listen to a group of them share their stories.


Our City Is Bigger Than You Realize. Here’s How We’re Meeting The Challenges Of A Growing Community

Tens of thousands of cars travel into Wilmington every day to visit, work, and play, placing far more strain on city roads than a city of 127,000 residents.

More than 127,000 people call Wilmington home but far more visit, work, and play in the city on any given day.

As the population center for a fast-growing region, tens of thousands of residents from surrounding areas pass through Wilmington on a daily basis. That includes 55,000 who travel in for work, a multitude of tourists and convention goers, and all those who take advantage of the city’s healthcare, shopping, dining, and entertainment options.

With Wilmington being a destination and regional hub, this activity places far more strain on roads, infrastructure, and core services than the city’s population would suggest. That’s why meeting the challenges of growth is a high priority for the City of Wilmington, with targeted investments to improve the infrastructure and services so heavily relied upon.

More than 127,000 people call Wilmington home but far more visit, work, and play in the city on any given day.

Moving In The Right Direction

With more traffic comes more strain on Wilmington roads, but we’re taking steps to alleviate congestion and improve motorists’ experience. Here’s how:

Advancing Transportation Projects:

A number of projects are in the works to get people off the street and on their feet (or their bikes, or their roller skates). We’re prioritizing projects that add more multi-use paths, widen streets, build sidewalks, and encourage alternative modes of transportation. Capital improvement programming is a critical procedure for identifying major facility needs, projecting fiscal resources, establishing priorities, and developing defined project schedules to meet the City of Wilmington capital needs. 

Council continues to prioritize capital improvement projects, including upgrades to roads, sidewalks, multi-use paths, parks, and stormwater management. This budget includes $29.9 million for these projects and added staff to complete them sooner.

  • The Streets and Sidewalks program addresses major thoroughfare needs, street maintenance and rehabilitation, sidewalk construction and repair at a projected cost of $16,584,899 for FY22.
  • Capital Improvement Projects also include parks and recreation ($2,815,283), stormwater ($2,975,000), buildings ($7,444,233), and parking ($51,000) FY22.

 Enhancing Street Rehabilitation:

The effects of thousands of cars driving are roads daily are noticeable, that’s why the most recent budget includes an historic amount of funding to mitigate these impacts by significantly expanding our street rehabilitation and street maintenance efforts. The budget allocates $8+ million for street rehabilitation and enhanced maintenance. In addition to the $4,855,543 CIP funding planned for the Street Rehabilitation, the general fund is allocating another $3.5 million further expand the program with more significant efforts on street proactive/preventative practices such as pavement rejuvenation, sealing and micro-surfacing. These practices slow down the deterioration of those roads keeping their pavement condition index at a more acceptable or higher level for a longer period. In total, in FY22, the Street Rehabilitation program will receive $8,355,543.

Implementing a New Land Development Code:

We overhauled our Land Development Code, which will physically shape our city for years to come. The new Land Development Code responds to new and emerging needs with strategies to improve traffic conditions, preserve and grow the city’s tree canopy, better manage stormwater, and develop a more convenient, compact, and connected future city with a smarter approach to land use.  The code calls for services to be located closer to people, which will relieve traffic congestion and make the community more convenient, walkable and bike friendly. Here’s how:

  • Reduce sprawl by encouraging the re-development of vacant or underutilized properties in the city. This helps to reduce long travel times on major roads and improves access and convenience for nearby neighborhoods.
  • Locate residential housing closer to retail, restaurants, other services and offices. This lessens the need to drive major corridors which relieves traffic congestion and makes the community more convenient, walkable and bike friendly.
  • Encourage the on-site management of stormwater runoff and structured parking instead of expansive surface parking along major roads. This reduces the amount of runoff and flooding on surrounding roads and properties, and also enhances the appearance of major roads.
  • Locate buildings closer to the street to create a sense of place and make the community more walkable and connected.

Commission On African American History Honors 3 At Living Legends Banquet

The City of Wilmington’s Commission on African American History held the fourth annual Living Legends awards banquet on Saturday, Dec. 3.

The purpose of the event is to honor individuals for their contribution toward improving Wilmington.

This year’s recipients were:

  • Jacqueline Morris-Goodson: Morris-Goodson presided over the Fifth Judicial District and served as judge from 1983 to 1996. Morris-Goodson was the first African American woman to be appointed Chief District Court Judge and is honored for her long career of advocacy for women.
  • Luther H. Jordan, Jr.: Jordan served on the Wilmington City Council for 16 years and served as the city’s first African American mayor pro-tempore. In 1993, he was elected to the State Senate where he served five terms. Jordan was highly active in the community and described as a man of quick wit and integrity who was interested in helping people.
  • Mae Rachel Freeman: Freeman was born in Elizabethtown and attended public schools in Bladen and New Hanover counties, and took classes at UNCW. As a wife and mother of five, Freeman knew the value of a good education. This led her to be active in the PTA at the schools her children attended. She also volunteered at the YWCA, eventually serving as chair of the board. She worked to eliminate racism and empower women in the community. Her dedication to public education led to her filling an unexpired termon on the NHC School Board. She was later elected, and re-elected where she continued to fight for equal access to quality education for all children.

Morris-Goodson was presented with the Living Legend Award, she joked that it “meant she was old.” She spoke on the “ups and downs” of the difficult experiences she had being a judge who was also the first woman and first African American to hold that position. She remarked that she was “overjoyed to see each and every one and to have every part of her life represented in the room.” She also thanked the committee and city council for “acknowledging what my people have gone through.”

Different from past years, this year’s event honored one living legend and two legends who have passed away.

Jordan and Freeman were honored with the Triumph award. The late Luther Jordan’s award was presented to his daughter Keisha Jordan, and the late Rachel Freeman’s award was presented to her husband Bill Freeman and grandson Dorian Cromartie.  Cromartie stated he was honored to receive this award on behalf of his grandmother’s efforts and encouraged everyone in the room to continue to make sure “all children received an equal share of what they deserve when it comes to education.”

Additionally, a special recognition award was given to the Juneteenth Committee, and was presented to Abdul Rahman Shareef, chairman of the Juneteenth Committee. They have been working on Juneteenth celebrations for 25 years in Wilmington, and they mentioned their excitement in seeing the increased growth and excitement for current Juneteenth celebrations.

The Living Legends event is held in the spirit of the commission’s mission, which is to plan, develop and implement community projects that recognize and increase the awareness of the contributions of African Americans to Wilmington’s history; to encourage and assist African American history; and to recognize sites in the community that are significant to African American History.

Celebrate The Holiday Season With These Wilmington Events

Beginning this week, the City of Wilmington will host a variety of events to celebrate the holiday season, including for the first time ever, a synthetic ice rink. Events below:

Ice Skating, Live Oak Bank Pavilion

An infographic about the ice skating event in December. The caption reads, "Let's go ice skating! Live Oak Bank Pavilion, December 1st to December 9th. Cost is $5 a person. Pre-registration is required. URL is webreg.wilmingtonnc.gov. Or call 910.341.7855.

December 1 – 9
Cost: $5/person  
Pre-registration is required.
Register online – webreg.wilmingtonnc.gov  or call 910.341.7855
Live Oak Bank Pavilion, 10 Cowan Street

Members of the public can register for 1-hour time blocks, which will include 45 minutes of skating time and 15 minutes for signing waivers and putting on skates. Skaters may wear their own ice skates. The ice rink is made of synthetic ice.


Thursday, December 15-9 pm
Friday, December 25-9 pm
Saturday, December 32-9 pm
Sunday, December 41-4 pm
Monday, December 55-9 pm
Tuesday, December 65-9 pm
Wednesday, December 75-9 pm
Thursday, December 85-9 pm
Friday, December 95-9 pm

Questions?  910.341.7855

Holiday Parade

A picture of Santa riding on a Wilmington Fire Department fire truck during a previous holiday parade.

Sunday, December 11; 6 p.m.
Downtown Wilmington along Front Street.
Deadline for entries: December 2
The 19th annual Holiday Parade will take place in downtown Wilmington on Sunday, December 11th. The event typically draws thousands of people to downtown. Click here for expected traffic impacts and a map of the parade route.

2022 Community Menorah Lighting

A previous picture of the community menorah lighting.

Sunday, December 18; 5-8 p.m.
Downtown Wilmington (foot of Market Street)

Hosted by Chabad of Wilmington and City of Wilmington, the annual lighting of the menorah event on the first night of Chanukah will be Dec. 18 in Downtown Wilmington. The event will include music, dancing, dignitaries, and light refreshments. 

Events that have already took place:

Downtown Tree Lighting

A picture of the downtown holiday tree during a previous lighting ceremony.

Friday, November 25; 5:30 p.m.
Downtown Wilmington (foot of Market Street)

This family tradition at Market and Water Streets includes live music, a local artisans’ shopping village, face painting, free spin-the wheel prizes, and a special visit from Santa with a free photo op following the tree lighting countdown. Free hot cocoa while supplies last. The event is presented by the City of Wilmington, Cool Wilmington, Downtown Business Alliance, Excite Credit Union, Star News and Cumulus Media.

Tree Lighting & Movie!

An infographic about the tree lighting event at Riverfront Park. The caption reads, "Tree lighting and Movie! Saturday December 3rd, 5:30 pm to 9 pm, Live Oak Bank Pavilion, at 10 Cowan Street. Wilmingtonrecreation.com."

Saturday, December 3; 5:30-9 pm 
Live Oak Bank Pavilion, 10 Cowan Street


  • Holiday Musical Performance, Cape Fear Chorale: 5:45-6 pm
  • Christmas Tree Lighting, Mayor Saffo – 6 pm – 6:05 pm
  • Free Santa Visits – 6:05 pm – 7:15 pm
  • Holiday Movie on the Lawn – Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch (2018) – 7:30 pm – 9 pm (bring blankets or lawn chairs)

Activities include face painting, Santa visits, food, games, and synthetic ice rink (Pre-registration is required). Toys For Tots will be collecting new unwrapped toys.  While supplies last, enjoy free hot chocolate and receive a free “Celebrate the Holidays” T‐Shirt from Port City Apparel. Community Partners:  WGNICumulus MediaPort City ApparelToys for TotsCape Fear Chorale

Holiday Parade Details And The Expected Traffic Impacts

The 19th annual Holiday Parade will take place in downtown Wilmington on Sunday, December 11th. The event typically draws thousands of people to downtown to check out all the festive floats — and Santa!

Here are the expected traffic impacts for the parade which will begin at 6pm.

Location of Event:

  • Front St. between Brunswick St. & Castle St.

Street Closures & Times

Staging area to close at 2:30pm:

  • N Front St. between Brunswick St. & Walnut St.
  • Hanover St. between 2nd St. & Nutt St
  • Red Cross St. between Water/Nutt St. & 2nd St.
  • Walnut St. between N 2nd St. & Front St.

Parade route to close at 5:00pm (staff at barricades will allow cross traffic over Front St. until just before the parade starts):

  • Front St. between Walnut St. & Castle St.
  • Market St. between Water and Front
  • Castle St. between N Front St. & Surrey St.
  • Church St. between N Front St. & Surrey St.
  • Surrey St. between Church and Castle

Additional Information:

  • Participant setup will take place on Front Street between Walnut St. and Brunswick, Hanover between Front and 2nd and in Cape Fear Community College student parking lot # 1 beginning at 2:30 pm
  • Actual parade begins at 6pm at the corner of N. Front St. and Walnut St. ending at Church St. The parade entries will continue to Castle St. and will be diverted down to the Surry St./Dram Tree Park as their final stopping points
  • Parade should be over by 7:00 pm with breakdown to follow immediately after parade finishes allowing time for solid waste to clean up. 

Council Recap: City Approves Loan To Rehab Driftwood Apartments, Update On Clean Energy Goals

Wilmington City Council held its last regular meeting for the month of November.

First up, council received a briefing on the Clean Energy Advisory Committee’s annual report. [Watch the full report here]

The committee provides advice on best practices and strategies on how the city can achieve its clean energy goals.

“The target of those goals was to get the city to a place where it would be powered by 100 percent clean energy by 2050, and that would also, that the city’s vehicle fleet would also be powered with electric vehicles completely by that same year,” said Lindsey Hallock, a member of the Clean Energy Advisory Committee.

Next, council heard a report from the Cape Fear Homeless Continuum of Care. [Watch the full report here].

This agency is an alliance of public and private entities dedicated to the reduction and elimination of homelessness in our region.

“The proven best practice to end homelessness in housing is housing first. This is a philosophy adopted by our local community and a nationwide trend that advocates to offer individuals housing first,” said Michelle Bennett, board member of the Cape Fear Homeless Continuum of Care.

Council also agreed to loan nearly $700,000 to the Cape Fear Collective for the rehabilitation of the Driftwood property. Upon renovation, this property will serve as permanent supportive housing, providing zero or low-rent housing for people with a disability who’ve experienced chronic homelessness. It also offers residents supportive services to assist them with daily living.

City Council will meet again on December 6th at 6:30 pm. For more on this meeting, visit WilmingtonNC.gov.