August 26th marks the centennial of the 19th Amendment ratification, guaranteeing all American women the right to vote.  It may be hard to imagine now, but it was only after decades of sacrifice and struggle by brave women willing to challenge the status-quo before their goal was achieved.  Despite the harassment, and sometimes physical attacks, the suffragettes knew what was right and would not give up until their dream was realized.

By recognizing this important anniversary, we honor and reinforce the equality of people in our communities and in our Army.

Women of Political Union Army and Navy day electioneering tour of Brooklyn
(Original Caption) October 22, 1913: Women of Political Union starting off an Army and Navy day electioneering tour of Brooklyn. Mildred Tailor, Jane Pincus, Eliz Aldrich, Mrs. Buxton, Mrs. L.E. Carson, Beatrice Brawn (Photo Credit: Bettmann/Getty) VIEW ORIGINAL

Long before achieving equality in the voting booth, women were already demonstrating their exceptional intelligence and patriotism throughout our communities and on the battlefield.

After the Revolution the storied tales of Molly Pitcher emerged - the spouse of a Soldier and camp follower who supported American Soldiers by cooking, cleaning and supplying water to Soldiers on the battlefield. While accurate accounts of Molly Pitcher are lost to history, it is well-regarded that accounts of her strength and patriotism are a compilation of several women filling this role; the most famous being Mary Ludwig Hays. She is said to have stepped up to the caisson and continue cannon fire when her artilleryman husband fell at the Battle of Monmouth. Buried in Carlisle, Pennsylvania her grave stands as a tribute to her heroism, marked with a large statue of a woman holding a ramrod and a replica cannon. Her efforts in defense of our fledgling democracy were recognized with an annual $40 pension.

Although it wasn’t until World War II that women served in our Armed Forces in an official capacity, thousands of women just like Mary Ludwig Hays have served with distinction in every conflict this Nation has fought.

Today, more than 74,000 female Soldiers don the uniform of our active component Army, serving side-by-side with their male counterparts displaying equality among all our branches.

Our Army thrives in the face of the full integration of women throughout our ranks. Women like Captain Kristen Griest and First Lieutenant Shayne Harver, the first two females to graduate from Ranger school in 2015, completed this challenging 62-day course to the same standards as their male counterparts.

Just last month the first female earned her Green Beret and Special Forces Tab after graduating from the Special Forces Qualification Course, a grueling months-long assessment and training course. Not long after this, Major General Jody Daniels was selected to the rank of Lieutenant General and will be the first woman to serve as Chief of Army Reserve and Commanding General of the U.S. Army Reserve Command in its 112 year history.

All of these women blaze a trail for those that follow, equal in service to men.

Every day our Nation benefits from the service, sacrifice and acumen that women offer; whether in government service, the operating room, the classroom or the corporate board room.  To learn more about the contributions of women, look at my list of recommended readings on Pinterest Women Who Serve: A Reading List .

“Achieving this milestone required a lengthy and difficult struggle; victory took decades of agitation and protest. Beginning in the mid-19th century, several generations of woman suffrage supporters lectured, wrote, marched, lobbied, and practiced civil disobedience to achieve what many Americans considered a radical change of the Constitution. Few early supporters lived to see final victory in 1920.” -National Archives