One hundred years ago on August 26, after decades of tireless advocacy, women finally won the right to vote with the adoption of the 19th Amendment. Women’s Equality Day was created on this anniversary to raise awareness about the importance of gender equality and recognize the sacrifices made by the suffragists.
Also known as women’s suffrage, the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees all American women the right to vote. The amendment changed Federal law and the face of the American electorate forever.
“Voting is one of the most critical activities that a citizen can and must do,” said Col. Deitra Trotter, Director of Intelligence, Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA). “It is one of the true equalizers in a democratic society – every person has a voice through their vote. As Americans, it is our right, not a privilege, and I believe that good citizens have a duty to exercise the right to choose wisely for the benefit of their local community and the nation as a whole.” Sgt. Maj. Shadonika Crawford, Equal Opportunity Advisor, CJTF-HOA, is grateful for the bravery of the advocates who toiled for women’s voting rights.
“I am so grateful to my brothers and sisters who fought for this right. Their efforts make me proud,” said Crawford. “I registered for my mail-in ballot today! Today, I am also instructing the Equal Opportunity Leaders Course that highlights contributions of all people to society.”
Established by Congress in 1971, Women's Equality Day was designed to commemorate the long struggle of women to gain the right to vote. It is a time to remember the tribulations overcome by the heroic women who faced violence and discrimination to propel the movement of equality forward, regardless of sex.
“As our generation prepares for a Presidential election while coping with an ongoing pandemic, I can't help but to feel more connected than ever to my great grandmother's generation -- who emerged from a pandemic and got the amendment ratified after a 72 year struggle,” said Lt. Cmdr. Lisa Good, Deputy Director, CJTF-HOA Contingency Contracting Office (CCO). “What an impressive feat!”
Female leaders currently deployed in support of CJTF-HOA shared their thoughts on this historic centennial anniversary.
“I am both proud and profoundly grateful to the brave and visionary women that tirelessly worked for women’s rights then and now,” said Trotter. “I am serving my nation, forward deployed, in a position of trust – that could not have happened even a few decades ago. Every day that I serve I hope to build the bench for future leaders – of all types, but this definitely includes women and minorities.”
Lt. Cmdr. Michelle Heppner, Executive Officer to the Commanding General, CJTF-HOA, also shared thoughts on celebrating and acknowledging the 100th year anniversary.
“Being deployed and during COVID makes it challenging to specifically celebrate this anniversary,” said Heppner. “I usually take part in local celebrations around my community. I usually also spend National Women’s Equality Day with my daughter and granddaughter, and we always find somethings celebratory to do. Last year we watched Hidden Figures, the movie about the black African American female mathematicians who were employed for their inspiring talent to calculate space missions however disregarded for their color and gender during the time of segregation.”
With this year being an election year, remember, being deployed does not prevent service members from exercising their civic duty to vote. The Federal Voting Assistance Program website has information on how to coordinate an absentee ballot.
“I feel that civic duty is paramount to the success of our democratic society,” said U.S. Army Reserve Capt. Candice Heins, 760th Engineer Vertical Construction Company commander. “Part of that civic duty is being an informed voter. I believe that informed voting is the single-most influential power that we have to affect change in our society--that costs absolutely nothing. We’re so fortunate to be part of a democratic society in the U.S., and I think it's important that we do our research to be informed and exercise our right to vote.”
Recognizing Women’s Equality Day reinforces the importance of diversity, inclusion, and a sense of belonging, which are important attributes to a healthy service culture.
“I feel that our diversity is our strength,” Heins said. “Not a single one of us makes a team, or organization, successful. I believe that we need to have a variety of backgrounds, perspectives and experiences amongst our ranks in order for us to be our most successful and efficient.
That diversity represents the culmination of more than a century of efforts by U.S. citizens, and is reflected in today’s military community.
“I am honored to lead the most diverse staff that I have ever witnessed," said U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Lapthe C. Flora, commanding general, CJTF-HOA. "I believe that wouldn't be possible today without all the efforts of those heroes who came before us to push through the 15th and 19th Amendments, as well as the Equal Rights Amendment. If it weren't for their foundational work, that we recognize in part on Women's Equality Day, we wouldn't enjoy the diverse personnel whose experience and different perspectives make us a successful fighting force. For that, I say thank you."