Women are foundational. When you look back on your life, how many women have impacted you in some way, shape or form? Throughout history, women have taken the troubles of others and shared the burden, hoping to ease some of the weight of each battle others have fought. Women are strong. Decades before women received the right to vote in the United States, they fought to keep the movement alive.
The Women’s Suffrage Movement, which spanned from 1848 to 1920, endured three U.S. wars including the Civil War, Spanish American War and World War One. The suffrage movement formally came to an end in Aug. 1920, when then-President Woodrow Wilson signed the 19th Amendment.
In remembrance of the anniversary of the ratification, Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD) and eight other warfare centers under the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) umbrella hosted a virtual collaborative observance event for National Women’s Equality Day, Aug. 26, hosted by Naval Undersea Warfare Center Division, Keyport.
During the hour-and-a-half video presentation, participants took a journey through time, pausing to learn about the women who made the amendment’s passing possible. Women from across NAVSEA commands voiced the featured historical figures, bringing a literal voice to the featured icons.
The presentation celebrated numerous suffragettes from Abigail Adams, who advocated for the right for women to vote 150 years before the amendment passed, to Susan B. Anthony, Ida B. Wells and many others who set the tone for the 82-year uphill battle.
As the observance continued, participants learned about first ladies and women in naval history who played a role in the betterment of the women’s equality movement including first ladies Michelle Obama and Eleanor Roosevelt. In addition, participants learned about female naval leaders like Loretta Walsh, the first woman to enlist in the U.S. Navy and Capt. Dianna Wolfson, the 110th Commander of Norfolk Naval Shipyard.
In the comments section, viewers shared and honored other female leaders, including Admiral Michelle Howard, the first female African American four-star general and Lenah Higbee.
“The story of Lenah Higbee is another amazing story,” wrote one participant. “She came into the Navy in 1908 as part of the Sacred Twenty, and became the Superintendent of the Nurse Corps in 1911, holding that position through WWI. She was also one of the first four women to earn the Navy Cross, and was the first woman who had a warship named after her (DD-806) after serving in the Navy. Amazing!”
The observance ended with a Q&A session with members of NAVSEA Observance Committee, which focused on topics like managing the continuing fight for equality, supporting others and the gender pay gap.
One participant drew parallels to current racial tensions in the country, “One of the featured women talked about ‘how to affect change without hurting other people.’ This is very salient to today's racial tensions... We need to do a better job of alleviating people's fears.”
The landmark amendment recognizing women’s right to vote was a massive step in the push for gender equality, but the fight continues in the U.S. and across the world.