August 26th marks the 52nd commemoration of Women’s Equality Day and the 103rd anniversary of the women’s suffrage movement’s greatest victory in the fight for gender equality—granting women the right to vote following the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
The amendment’s ratification paved the way for millions of women to participate in the political process as voters and, for the first time, to freely shape their own future as enfranchised citizens in the economic life of the nation. But what did the amendment, a milestone of American democracy, mean to an aspiring nation and its military power overseas?
Today, women’s equality has grown to mean much more than just sharing the right to vote. It has expanded to reflect upon and honor the progress that has been made towards gender equality. On the periphery of this expansion, there was an evolution in the Department of Defense (DOD) and its branches around the world. It is fair to say that a stride towards equality more than a 100 years ago serves as a catalyst for diversity and inclusion agendas across widely-ranging segments of the DOD today. Naval Support Activity (NSA) Bahrain is a mere example of this advancement with its commitment to maintain an environment where the contributions of all women are valued and where gender equality is wholly realized with increasing attention to the importance of race, ethnicity, and class.
When I first joined NSA Bahrain, the salient concern in my mind was, “How will I be treated?” As a non-US citizen, a civilian, and mostly as a woman. The U.S. Navy has made significant progress in the struggle for equality over the past century, opening the way for equal economic opportunities for all military personnel and civilians by combating sex and racial discrimination through regulations. For everyone, including me, this diversification of the military force has created limitless prospects and opportunities for equal treatment. We owe it to the pioneers of women’s equality for the opportunity we have now and the treatment we receive including self-worth, decision-making power, access to opportunities and resources, and the ability to effect change.
A Brief History of Celebrating August 26
Evaluating the progress of women’s equality in the U.S. and around the world is a duty devolved upon the rest of us since it is not only a crucial moral and social issue, but also essential for economic growth. The history of the 19th Amendment passage is a good place to start this review.
The women’s suffrage movement began at Seneca Falls, New York, in 1848, with the first women’s rights conference. Since then, numerous generations of women’s suffrage proponents have taught, written, marched, campaigned, and fought for what many Americans saw as a radical reform in the Constitution—to officially give American women the right to vote. A constitutional amendment granting women this right was offered in the United States Senate for the first time in 1878, but it was defeated in 1887. Suffrage organizations continued to work at the state and municipal levels throughout the 1890s. Lucy Burns and Alice Paul emerged as prominent leaders whose diverse techniques aided in the passage of the 19th Amendment.
The United States’ entry into World War I aided in changing popular view of women’s suffrage. The National American Woman Suffrage Association, directed by Carrie Chapman Catt, advocated for women’s enfranchisement in recognition of their patriotic wartime service. In 1918, President Woodrow Wilson announced his support for the suffrage amendment.
The 19th Amendment was formally introduced to Congress on June 14, 1919. However, adoption of the amendment to the US Constitution needed three-fourths of the states, which in 1919 was 36 of the 48 states. By the middle of 1920, the amendment had been ratified by 35 states. On August 18, 1920, Tennessee became the 36th and last state required. On August 26, 1920, Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby confirmed the ratification, forever altering the face of the American voter.
On August 26, 1970, the 50th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, the women’s liberation movement called for a “strike for equality.” Following the national Women’s Strike for Equality, New York Congresswoman Bella Abzug introduced legislation to designate August 26 as Women’s Equality Day in 1971 and again in 1973. While Richard Nixon became the first president to issue a proclamation designating August 26 as “Women’s Rights Day” in 1972, the bill was officially passed in 1973. Every year since, the president has declared August 26 “Women’s Equality Day.”
Acknowledging our trailblazers
Women have made significant contributions to the strength and resilience of the United States armed forces since Congress granted them the right to “serve as permanent, regular members of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force” under the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act in 1948, holding positions ranging from administration to aviation to combat. Women now make up more than 231,000 of the DOD’s entire personnel. Gender prejudices have been overcome in the Navy through tenacity, demonstrated talents, and a shared enthusiasm for adventure since 2013, when the military’s prohibition on women participating in combat was lifted. Today, we honor the trailblazers and suffragists, as well as the nation’s finest female military commanders who pushed us towards a more equitable and affluent future. Here are some examples of leading women in the military:
Admiral Michelle Howard, the Navy’s highest-ranking female commander, was nominated by President Barack Obama in May 2016 to oversee US Naval Forces Europe-Africa and Allied Joint Force Command, Naples. Howard made history when she became the first woman to be promoted to the rank of 4-star admiral.
Nominated to that post by President Joe Biden on March 5, 2021, General Jacqueline D. Van Ovost is the 14th Commander of the U.S. Transportation Command (TRANSCOM). In early 2021, she was the only active-duty female four-star general officer in the United States.
This year, President Joe Biden has selected Admiral Lisa Franchetti to be the Navy’s top officer. A historic step that would break a gender barrier in the U.S. military by making her the first woman to command the service and to become a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Admiral Linda L. Fagan assumed the duties as the 27th Commandant of the United States Coast Guard on June 1st, 2022. making her the first woman in American history to lead any branch of the U.S. Armed Forces.
On March 6, 2021, General Laura Jane Richardson was nominated by President Joe Biden to become the first woman commander to lead the U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), the second woman to attain the rank of general in the U.S. Army and the third woman to lead one of the U.S. military’s 11 unified combatant commands.
As a result, the commemoration aims to honor the work and rising presence of women in the US Armed Forces, as well as to encourage military force diversity. On this day, we honor women of all abilities and disciplines who work for the DOD, and the climate we foster allows for no boundaries.
|Date Posted:||08.24.2023 15:15|