Commentary: Women's Equality Day a reminder to celebrate diversity
August 20, 2009
<i>The following was taken from a 'Commander's Corner' written by Col. Deborah B. Grays, who is the Garrison Commander for Fort McPherson & Fort Gillem, Ga.</i>
In 1971, the U.S. Congress declared the 26th of August, "Women's Equality Day." Aug. 26 is the anniversary of the 1920 passage of the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which provides that, "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex."
President Bill Clinton, in his 1994 Women's Equality Day proclamation, described the ratification of this amendment as, "... an important step toward ensuring that the civil and political rights guaranteed by the Constitution would truly be the equal rights of all Americans."
He described the purpose of Women's Equality Day as twofold: first, it would commemorate the passage of the 19th Amendment and the achievements and contributions of women in the United States. Second, it would serve as a reminder for Americans to recommit themselves to promoting equality.
The 19th Amendment to the Constitution marked the culmination of a massive, peaceful civil-rights movement that began at the world's first women's rights convention in Seneca Falls,N.Y.
On July 13, 1848, five women met for tea in upstate New York, and after discussing the role of women in American society, decided to send off a notice to the local newspaper announcing a convention to discuss the social, civil, and religious conditions and rights of women.
Convention participants drafted the Declaration of Sentiments, which began, "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal." Within this declaration, the call for universal women's suffrage rang the loudest. After a 72-year struggle, the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified on Aug. 26, 1920, ending gender-based denial of voting rights in the United States.
President Obama remarked in his statement on International Women's Day (March 8) that as Americans, we are, "... filled with great hope that our daughters, and the daughters of all nations, will continue to serve as leaders in the pursuit of our collective well-being and have the opportunity to achieve their full potential."
As we observe Women's Equality Day this coming week, I encourage all members of our community to appreciate the role women play in advancing the ideals of our Constitution and to recognize that in many parts of the world, full equality for women is only a dream.
Women's Equality Day celebrates how far we have come as a society, as well as the many contributions women are making today. These accomplishments are a tribute to the diversity of American society and to our continuing commitment to equality for all Americans.