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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).

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

WeekdayDateYearNameHoliday TypeWhere It is Observed
TueFeb 162010Elizabeth Peratrovich DayLocal observanceAlaska
WedFeb 162011Elizabeth Peratrovich DayLocal observanceAlaska
ThuFeb 162012Elizabeth Peratrovich DayLocal observanceAlaska
SatFeb 162013Elizabeth Peratrovich DayLocal observanceAlaska
SunFeb 162014Elizabeth Peratrovich DayLocal observanceAlaska
MonFeb 162015Elizabeth Peratrovich DayLocal observanceAlaska
TueFeb 162016Elizabeth Peratrovich DayLocal observanceAlaska
ThuFeb 162017Elizabeth Peratrovich DayLocal observanceAlaska
FriFeb 162018Elizabeth Peratrovich DayLocal observanceAlaska
SatFeb 162019Elizabeth Peratrovich DayLocal observanceAlaska
SunFeb 162020Elizabeth Peratrovich DayLocal observanceAlaska

Quick Facts

Elizabeth Peratrovich was one of the main driving forces behind the territory's Anti-Discrimination Act of 1945.

Elizabeth Peratrovich Day 2018

Friday, February 16, 2018 (local in Alaska)

Elizabeth Peratrovich Day 2019

Saturday, February 16, 2019 (local in Alaska)

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Name in other languages

NameLanguage
Elizabeth Peratrovich DayEnglish
Elizabeth Peratrovich DagNorwegian
Elizabeth Peratrovich TagGerman

List of dates for other years

Other holidays in February 2019 in the United States

Fun Holiday on February 16, 2019

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