By Gregory P. Stallworth, Fort Campbell’s Equal Employment Opportunity directorGiven the understanding that our nation was founded on the principle of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” as a mantra, it’s difficult to believe that this ideal largely excluded women.When our nation was founded in 1776 as a burgeoning sovereignty, the founding fathers of then-Colonial America followed the societal mores, traditions and customs of its former ruling country, the United Kingdom of Great Britain. As such, women had very few rights, especially unmarried women.During the first half of the 1800s, a woman’s right to own property, a right to pursue a college degree and a right to vote was virtually nonexistent in America. At that time, a woman’s value, worth and par-ticipation in society, which were elements determined exclusively by men, were narrowly limited to her role as a wife and mother. Therefore, if a woman was not married, her value to society and her rights that accompanied her value were dismal. Again, this was based on societal norms shaped by cul-tural expectations and enforced by laws that were established and legislated exclusively by men.During that era being designated a spinster, considered an insulting term used to describe an older woman who never married, was considered a lifetime embarrassment. Being a spinster was deemed as a penalty for not being attractive, pristine or virtuous enough to attain a husband. By deliberate de-sign of a male-dominated society, without a husband, a woman living in the United States during the first half of the 19th century was disenfranchised and left without a legitimate means to independent-ly live and thrive.Thus, during that time in our history, being married literally legitimized a woman, giving her an oppor-tunity to share in the social respectability of her husband’s earned title and educational status, alt-hough she was not allowed to earn an education herself. In fact, according to “Historic Firsts in Wom-en’s Education in the United States,” an article published by U.S. News & World Report, March 11, 2009, it was not until July 16, 1840, that Catherine Brewer became the first woman to earn a bachelor’s degree from Wesleyan College, Macon, Georgia. The article also chronicles that in 1862 Mary Jane Pat-terson became the first black woman to earn a bachelor’s degree from Oberlin College and Conserva-tory, Oberlin, Ohio. Lastly, noting latent advanced educational achievement of women, the article not-ed that in 1849 Elizabeth Blackwell became the first woman to graduate from medical school, which she did at the top of her class, at Geneva Medical School, Geneva, New York.Today, ironically, women have surpassed men in college enrollment and graduation. According to the U.S. Department of Education, in fall 2017 56% of the student body at colleges and universities were women. A June 20, 2019, NPR article, “New Report Says Women Will Soon Be Majority Of College-Educated U.S. Workers” states “women, ages 25 and older, now account for more than half of the col-lege-educated workforce (50.2%) – an 11% increase since 2000” based on U.S. Bureau of Labor Statis-tics data. Thus, education helped serve as vital seeds toward social justice and equality between men and women.Even after strides in educational opportunity were achieved, in the mid-1800s, being married to a man was still the only way a woman had full and clear rights to own property. In fact, it was not until the Civil Rights Act of 1866 that a woman in the U.S. could legitimately own property independent of her husband. This law that was primarily passed in response to ensuring the rights of freed slaves, said any citizen – including a woman – has the same right that a white citizen has to make and enforce con-tracts, sue and be sued, given evidence in court, and inherit, purchase, lease, sell, hold and convey real and personal property.With the Women’s Rights Convention of 1840 in Seneca Falls, New York, and other ongoing move-ments led by iconic women suffragists, such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, through the 19th century, the American woman was eventually granted access to collegiate achievement and property ownership. However, entering into the 20th century, the American woman was still politically disenfranchised, meaning she did not have the right to vote.The word “suffrage” is very interesting. Surprisingly, many people don’t know what it means. It simp-ly means to be politically franchised, which is a right that many people now take for granted. For wom-en in America, achieving this right was a long, difficult and painstaking battle that lasted many decades.Because of the tirelessly dedicated and self-sacrificing leadership of many history-making women, in-cluding suffragist Carrie Chapman Catt, many women have been elected into political offices across the nation during the past 100 years in countless city, county, and state federal positions including legisla-tors, executives, judges, and chief law enforcement officers.Without the resilience and tenacity of the legendary Women Suffragist Movement leader, Susan B. Anthony, the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution probably would not have become a reality on Aug. 26, 1920, which the nation will celebrate the 100th anniversary.As a brilliant, bold and outspoken activist for equality, Anthony said, “I declare to you that woman must not depend upon the protection of man, but must be taught to protect herself, and there I take my stand.” She also said, “Men, their rights, and nothing more; women, their rights, and nothing less.”Uniquely, the state of Tennessee made history when it became the 36th state to vote favorably for its ratification, giving the bill the two-thirds vote needed for U.S. Congress to vote it into law. The amendments reads:“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.”