It is hard to imagine for us that there was a time in our nation’s history when women didn’t have the right to vote based solely on their sex. It’s even more surprising that while a century may seem like a long time, it really isn’t that long ago that we were grappling with this societal inadequacy.
Next Monday, August 26, we celebrate Women’s Equality Day. It is the 99th anniversary of the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, giving women the right to vote. This achievement was the culmination of a 72-year, non-violent campaign for equal rights, carried out by tens of thousands of persistent women and men.
The formal origins of this movement began in 1848, when a group of women held the first women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls, New York. The observance of Women’s Equality Day not only commemorates the passage of this important Amendment, but also calls attention to women’s ongoing efforts toward equality for all.
The significance of the woman suffrage campaign and its enormous political and social impact is a story of women creating the most remarkable and successful non-violent civil rights efforts the world has ever seen. It is all the more remarkable when considering the barriers and challenges the suffragists had to overcome. Make no mistake of the fact that supporters were ridiculed and, in other cases, incarcerated for attempting to usher in a new era.
With little financial, legal or political power of their own, and working against a well-financed and entrenched opposition, women fought for their rights of citizenship, the right to vote. When they first organized to gain political power, women were virtually a powerless, disenfranchised class. Yet, without firing a single shot, throwing a rock or issuing a personal threat, women won for themselves the kind of political power that revolutionaries elsewhere have launched violent rebellions to achieve.
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To win the right to vote, women circulated countless suffrage petitions and gave speeches in churches, convention halls, meeting houses and on street corners. They published articles in newspapers, pamphlets and magazines. They were frequently harassed and sometimes attacked by mobs and police. Some women were thrown in jail, and when they protested the injustice, they were treated brutally. Still, they persevered. Finally, August 26, 1920, their goal was achieved. Women had the right to vote and hold elective office.
Established by Congress in 1971, Women’s Equality Day was designed to commemorate the long struggle of generations of women to gain the right to vote. The observance also calls attention to women’s continuing efforts today toward full equality. As said by Susan B. Anthony: “Men, their rights, and nothing more; women, their rights, and nothing less.”
The American Woman Suffrage Movement stands as a lasting affirmation of our Country’s democratic promise because it re-emphasizes the importance of the most fundamental democratic values: the right to vote, and the possibility of peaceful yet revolutionary political change.
If it weren’t for the crusaders of the suffrage movement – and women’s rights advocates before and after the Nineteenth Amendment was passed – we probably wouldn’t see their legacy carryover to Naval Aviation. Thanks in large part to everyone who fought for women’s equal rights in every aspect of society, today we have women serving alongside men at NAS Lemoore performing every conceivable job we have to offer. Most importantly, our women who serve today have proven to be as ferocious of warriors as any men. Their sacrifice, conviction and dedication are and will always be honored and bestowed with nothing but gratitude.