The road to ratification of women’s right to vote took decades and many struggles to reach. One hundred years later the winning of the rights is still celebrated.
During Fort Leonard Wood’s 2019 Women’s Equality Day Observance, guest speaker Dr. Mara Woody, Missouri Department of Higher Education assistant commissioner for Postsecondary Policy, highlighted some of the lesser known stories of those who fought to make the 19th Amendment a reality.
“Activists lectured, wrote, marched, lobbied and protested in support of the ratification of the 19th Amendment,” said Staff Sgt. Narina Woodard, event narrator, who listed facts provided by the DoD. “The U.S. Constitution left the boundaries for suffrage under fire.”
Woodard said before the movement, voter’s qualifications were determined by each state separately.
“I feel it’s important to note the commitment of so many people to this cause, both men and women,” Woody said. “With the dedication and bravery of many individuals serving in public office, this right was established.”
Woody added, “To understand where we are today, it’s important to understand our history — legally and socially, and the individuals involved in the story.”
Women in the United States actively fought for their rights for over 150 years with the first official Women’s Rights rally being held in 1848 in New York with about 300 people attending. One hundred attendees signed a Declaration of Sentiments; Woody said one-third of the 100 were men.
According to Woody one woman who attended this first rally lived long enough to see women gain the right to vote. Charlotte Woodward was only a teenager at the time of the rally and 91 when women were finally able to go to the federal polls and cast their votes.
“Originally the suffrage movement focused on social barriers such as women’s family responsibilities, lack of educational and economic opportunities for women,” Woody said.
She said it wasn’t until after the Civil War the focus changed to achieving the right to vote.
“The great seal of the United States says ‘E pluribus unum,’” Woody said. “This is Latin for, ‘out of many, one.’ Our forefathers fought and died for this belief. It’s imperative that we never stop fighting for this belief.”
Woody thanked service members for the role they play in securing the nation’s freedoms.
“This is America, the land of the free and the home of the brave,” Woody said. “Today I can take my family to the voting booth so that all of us over 18 years old can vote. And I can instill in my daughters the importance of this right. The importance of our voice in a democracy and to be grateful for the men and women that fought to protect it and many of our other rights.”
Command Sgt. Maj. Daren Boruff, Maneuver Support Center of Excellence Noncommissioned Officer Academy commandant, thanked those who helped make the day a success.