By Kathy Eastwood, Staff WriterSeptember 3, 2009
West Point celebrated an important date and victory in the fight for equal rights for women Aug. 26. It was this day in 1920 that the passage of the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution went into effect-giving women the right to vote.
Debra Zedalis, former Deputy to the Garrison Commander at West Point, was the guest speaker at the West Point Club Women's Equality Day event. Zedalis is now the Director of Installation Management Command, Pacific Region located in Hawaii. Her responsibilities include Alaska, Japan and Okinawa.
"It's a wonderful region," Zedalis said. "Although it's not as easy to contact people as it is here because of the geographical distances, it's the best region in the military."
Zedalis said she was happy to be back meeting old friends and co-workers and to catch up on information and gossip. Her speech reflected the long struggle for women's rights and the challenges ahead.
"Much like our military academy cadets, who work hard to display the values of duty, honor, country-the vision and determination of American women helped to build this great nation," she said. "Women's Equality Day should challenge us to reflect on the obstacles that women and men endured to secure a freedom that many of us may take for granted, again, the right to vote."
Zedalis recalled a letter written by Abigail Adams, who voiced her concern for women's rights to her husband, John Quincy Adams, when considering the Declaration of Independence.
"In the very beginning of our country, Abigail Adams told her husband that women would not hold themselves bound by any laws in which they had no voice and no representation," she said. "One might say the call for women's rights and women's right to vote began with a lone voice at the dawning of our independence."
Spearheaded by the late congressional representative Bella Abzug, Aug. 26 was designated a national day of celebration in 1971 by an act of Congress.
Women's Equality Day at West Point recalled the hard work of Susan B. Anthony, Sojourner Truth and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who fought for equal rights for women and for the right to vote. Anthony's successful registration to vote was marred by her arrest in 1872 after daring to vote for President Ulysses S. Grant.
Six-year-old Emma Chadwick received first prize at the event in a West Point Equal Opportunities and Equal Employment Opportunities sponsored 'Real Women' poster contest for children in Kindergarten. Chadwick was one of six children participating in the contest from the Child Development Center. Her poster was about her mom, who "helps cadets."