Women's Equality Day

  • Published
  • By Capt. Elias Zani
  • Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

Since its designation in 1973, Women’s Equality Day is celebrated across the United States every August 26, commemorating the passing of the 19th Amendment and guaranteeing women the right to vote.

Initially, the Constitution did not explicitly define suffrage, or the right to vote, but allowed each state to outline voter qualification. While some colonies allowed women to vote, that right was denied in every state by 1807.

The road to women’s suffrage was long, and while some fought prior to 1848 for this right, the Seneca Falls Convention is commonly agreed upon to be the start of the women’s rights movement in the U.S. At this convention, both women and men gathered to discuss the rights of women.

By 1865, the first national petition, the “Petition for Universal Suffrage”, was signed by Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Stanton and others. The petition called for an amendment to guarantee the right to vote regardless of sex. Unfortunately this petition resulted in very little action.

Activists continued fighting for years to come.

In the late 1800’s many territories in the west were gaining statehood and local suffrage bills began to pass in those new states.

The bill which eventually would become the 19th Amendment was introduced to congress in 1878, but it would take nearly four decades to pass. The House of Representatives passed the bill on May 21, 1919, sending it to a vote in the Senate which passed the bill on June 4, 1919.

Finally, Tennessee became the deciding state to ratify the bill before it could be adopted and certified by Congress as the 19th Amendment on August 26, 1920.

Although the 19th Amendment technically allowed the rights for all to vote, including the right to vote regardless of race, color or pervious condition of servitude as outlined in the15th Amendment, it wouldn’t be until the Voting Rights Act in 1965 before many African American Women were able to exercise their right to vote.

Thanks to those activists who came before us, voting is no longer a privilege which only extends to a select few individuals.

On Joint Base Charleston, the Federal Voter’s Assistance Program is here to help service members and their families get the information they need to exercise their right to vote.

This Thursday, Aug. 26, 2020, there will be an informational booth set up at the Air Base Exchange where individuals can obtain information on the FVAP program, verify their voter registration or learn how they can register to vote.

For information on the FVAP, visit https://jbcmfr.com/our-programs/voting-assistance/.