Sunday is Women's Equality Day

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Kimberly Mann
  • 66th Air Base Wing Military Equal Opportunity superintendent
Aug. 26, 1920 is an important date for the women's rights movement in the United States. On that day, Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby, with the approval of President Woodrow Wilson, signed the 19th Amendment into law, granting women suffrage -- the right to vote. 

Susan B. Anthony frankly stated the point of women's suffrage, "There never will be complete equality until women themselves help to make laws and elect lawmakers." 

The women's suffrage movement was not a one-time protest/petition to congress in 1920. The suppressed status of women in U.S. society provoked the long fight for women's suffrage.

The movement formally started in 1848, when the first Women's Rights Convention was held in Seneca Falls, N.Y. The initial approach to addressing women's suffrage was directed toward individual state legislation. However, in 1913, the Congressional Union was formed for the exclusive purpose of securing passage of a federal amendment for women's suffrage. 

When the movement began, women did not vote, hold elective office, attend college or earn a living. They could not make legal contracts, divorce or gain custody of their children. The "Declaration of Sentiments," contracted in the first Women's Rights Convention, included the first formal demand made in the United States for women's right to vote. 

Preceding events surrounding the passage of the 19th Amendment included protests, petitions, press releases, speeches and civil disobedience. 

A pivotal argument for women's suffrage in 1920 included women serving for the military in World War I. Women served in the Nurse Corps (Army and Navy), the Navy, the Marine Corps and the Coast Guard. The total female force was approximately 34,000 by the end of WWI. 

While at the end of the war demobilization of women was the rule, it was hard to argue that women could serve a government organization that defended the right to vote, yet had no right to vote. 

It was this argument that brought President Wilson to approve the 19th Amendment. Women from every part of the United States were involved. The more famous included Susan B. Anthony, Sojourner Truth, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucy Stone, Lucretia Mott, Adella Hunt Logan, Ida Wells-Barnett and Mary Church Terrell. Men also supported the cause. 

During the first convention, 32 men signed the "Declaration of Sentiments." The successful passage of the 19th Amendment marked a crucial milestone in the fight for women's equality in the U.S. 

In 1971, the U.S. Congress designated Aug. 26 as Women's Equality Day in remembrance of women's suffrage and the continuing efforts toward women's equality in the U.S. 

To find out more about the women's suffrage movement, contact the 66th Air Base Wing Military Equal Opportunity office or see the following Web sites:, and's_suffrage.