NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nevada --
Etched into the history of our nation are the stories of women who fought for the America they knew was possible – a country where all are truly treated equally and have access to the ballot box, regardless of gender. It took generations of fearless women, who organized and advocated to secure women’s right to vote. On Women’s Equality Day, we honor these courageous heroes, celebrate how far we have come in the decades since, and acknowledge the work still left to be done.
The woman suffrage amendment was introduced for the first time to U.S. Congress Jan. 10, 1878. It was re-submitted numerous times before the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate approved it in June 1919. In the following year, the suffragists petitioned states with hopes of receiving the required two-thirds amendment ratification. On Aug. 24, Tennessee, the final state needed for ratification, narrowly signed the approval by one vote; the vote belonged to Harry Burn, who heeded the words of his mother when she urged him to vote “yes” on suffrage.
The 19th Amendment passed in 1920, legally allowing all women to vote; however, within a decade, state laws and vigilante practices effectively excluded most African American women in the South. Forty years later, the Civil Rights Movement opened the door for African American women in the South to vote due to women’s suffrage movement leaders. Sojourner Truth, a former slave, became famous as an abolitionist and an advocate of women's suffrage, along with Margaretta Forten, Harriet Forten Purvis and Mary Ann Shadd Cary.
In 1971, Congress passed legislation to officially recognize Aug. 26 as Women’s Equality Day. The day marks the anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which was passed Aug. 26, 1920. Women’s Equality Day also draws attention to women’s ongoing efforts to achieve full equality with men. The passage of the 19th Amendment is a testament to the courage and tenacity of the women, and men, who challenged the nation to abide by its founding principles. The legacy of brave women who served, and continue to serve, our nation and the Department of Defense (DoD) further inspire us to strive for liberty and equality for all Americans.
Although, many of the accomplishments and contributions of women have been lost from the history books, women have played a vital role in the course of human civilization. From raising families to leading armies, women have made untold contributions to history. In the 98 years since the 19th Amendment, women have made strides in every facet of American life. More and more, the world is looking to our daughters to lead us, to heal us, to employ us, to thrill us on fields of play and to protect us on fields of battle.