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Fort Hood to celebrate Women’s Equality Day Monday; rich history remembered

Email   Print   Share By Lance Huhn, EEO Technician
August 22, 2013 | Editorial
Monday, Aug. 26, was designated as Women’s Equality Day, which marks the passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and guaranteed women the right to vote.

In 1971, New York representative Bella Abzug proposed Aug. 26 as “Women’s Equality Day.” This was the culmination of a massive, peaceful civil rights movement by women that had its formal beginnings in 1848 at the world’s first women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls, N.Y.

It took women 72 years to win the right to vote in the United States. Who were these women that first fought for the right to vote?

The most well-known women’s rights activist in history, Susan B. Anthony was born on Feb. 15, 1820, to a Quaker family in the northwestern corner of Massachusetts. Anthony was raised to be independent and outspoken. Her parents, like many Quakers, believed that men and women should study, live and work as equals and should commit themselves equally to the eradication of cruelty and injustice in the world.

Before she joined the campaign for women’s suffrage, Anthony was a temperance activist in Rochester, N.Y., where she was a teacher at a girls’ school. As a Quaker, she believed that drinking alcohol was a sin; moreover, she believed that male drunkenness was particularly hurtful to the innocent women and children who suffered from the poverty and violence it caused. However, Anthony found that few politicians took her anti-liquor crusade seriously, both because she was a woman and because she was advocating on behalf of a “women’s issue.” Women needed the vote, she concluded, so that they could make certain that the government kept women’s interests in mind.

In 1853, Anthony began to campaign for the expansion of married women’s property rights. In 1856, she joined the American Anti-Slavery Society, delivering abolitionist lectures across New York State.

Though Anthony was dedicated to the abolitionist cause and genuinely believed that African American men and women deserved the right to vote, after the Civil War ended she refused to support any suffrage amendments to the Constitution unless they granted the franchise to women, as well as men.

This led to a dramatic division in the women’s rights movement between activists like Anthony, who believed that no amendment granting the vote to African Americans should be ratified unless it also granted the vote to women (proponents of this point of view formed a group called the National Woman Suffrage Association), and those who were willing to support an immediate expansion of the citizenship rights of former slaves, even if it meant they had to keep fighting for universal suffrage. (Proponents of this point of view formed a group called the American Woman Suffrage Association.)

This animosity eventually faded, and in 1890 the two groups joined to form a new suffrage organization, the National American Woman Suffrage Association. Elizabeth Cady Stanton was NAWSA’s first president; Anthony was its second. She continued to fight for the vote until she died March 13, 1906.

Over the last century, many great women have played important roles in bringing equality for women to the forefront of American society. From Rosa Parks and Eleanor Roosevelt fighting for civil rights and equality, to great scientists such as Marie Curie, Rosalind Franklin, and Jane Goodall. Susan B. Anthony was one of the first to believe that women deserved the same equal rights as men to be major players in our society.

Today, women’s equality has grown to mean much more than just sharing the right to the vote. We must continue our efforts to provide women across America with equal opportunities to education and employment, pushing against suppression and violence towards women and against the discrimination and stereotyping.

Join the Fort Hood Equal Opportunity office as they commemorate the women who have served this great nation in observance of Women’s Equality Day Monday at 1:30 p.m. at Club Hood. The event will feature guest speaker, Diane Howard, Ph.D. This event is open to the public.
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