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Elizabeth Peratrovich Day in the United States

Every year on February 16, Alaskans honor Elizabeth Wanamaker Peratrovich (1911—1958) "for her courageous, unceasing efforts to eliminate discrimination and bring about equal rights in Alaska" (Alaska Statutes 44.12.065).

Is Elizabeth Peratrovich Day a Public Holiday?

Elizabeth Peratrovich Day is not a public holiday. It falls on Saturday, February 16, 2019 and most businesses follow regular Saturday opening hours in the United States.

O.D. Cochran, Elizabeth Peratrovich, Edward Anderson, Norman Walker, and Roy Peratrovich at the signing of the Anti-Discrimination Act of 1945.

Alaska Governor Ernest Gruening (seated) signs the Anti-Discrimination Act of 1945. Witnessing are (left to right): O.D. Cochran, Elizabeth Peratrovich, Edward Anderson, Norman Walker, and Roy Peratrovich.

©Alaska State Library/Alaska Territorial Governors Photograph Collection

What Do People Do?

For many, Elizabeth Peratrovich is the face of Alaska Native civil rights. She was one of the main driving forces to ensure the passing of the territory's Anti-Discrimination Act of 1945, which was the first anti-discrimination law in the United States.

On February 16, Alaskans honor her memory with gatherings and some visit the gravesite where she is buried alongside her husband, Roy Peratrovich.

Peratrovich has awards, monuments, and buildings named in her honor, including the Elizabeth Peratrovich Award, the Peratrovich Gallery in the Alaska House of Representatives, and a theater in Ketchikan's Southeast Alaska Discovery Center is also named after her. A park in downtown Anchorage is named for her and her husband.

Public Life

Elizabeth Peratrovich Day is a local observance in Alaska where some offices, institutions, and shops may be closed.

Background

Elizabeth Peratrovich was born on July 4, 1911 in Petersburg, Alaska. She was an Alaska Native of the Lukaax̱.ádi clan of the Tlingit nation (also spelled Tlinkit), an indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest Coast of North America. While she was still very young, she was adopted by Andrew and Mary Wanamaker, a Tlingit couple, and named Elizabeth Wanamaker.

In 1931, she married Roy Peratrovich (1908–1989), and together they spent their lives fighting for civil rights and against widespread discrimination against Alaska Natives.

In her testimony before the territorial Senate voted on the Anti-Discrimination Act, she famously responded to derogatory comments made by a senator: “I would not have expected that I, who am barely out of savagery, would have to remind gentlemen with 5,000 years of recorded civilization behind them, of our Bill of Rights.”

Peratrovich’s effort and testimony are considered to have been decisive in ensuring that the law passed, nearly 20 years before the US Congress established the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

On February 6, 1988, the Alaska Legislature established February 16 as Elizabeth Peratrovich Day. February 16 was chosen as it was the day the Anti-Discrimination Act was signed in 1945.

Elizabeth Peratrovich Day Observances

YearWeekdayDateNameHoliday TypeArea
2010TueFeb 16Elizabeth Peratrovich DayLocal observanceAlaska
2011WedFeb 16Elizabeth Peratrovich DayLocal observanceAlaska
2012ThuFeb 16Elizabeth Peratrovich DayLocal observanceAlaska
2013SatFeb 16Elizabeth Peratrovich DayLocal observanceAlaska
2014SunFeb 16Elizabeth Peratrovich DayLocal observanceAlaska
2015MonFeb 16Elizabeth Peratrovich DayLocal observanceAlaska
2016TueFeb 16Elizabeth Peratrovich DayLocal observanceAlaska
2017ThuFeb 16Elizabeth Peratrovich DayLocal observanceAlaska
2018FriFeb 16Elizabeth Peratrovich DayLocal observanceAlaska
2019SatFeb 16Elizabeth Peratrovich DayLocal observanceAlaska
2020SunFeb 16Elizabeth Peratrovich DayLocal observanceAlaska

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