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The ladder of women's equality

PATRICK AFB, FL -- Women's Equality Day is observed each year on Aug. 26. This day was set aside by Congress in 1971 to commemorate the 1920 ratification of the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote and to celebrate women's continuing efforts toward equality.

This year's theme for Women's Equality Day is "Courage is the ladder on which all the other virtues mount," a quote from Claire Boothe Luce (1903- 1987).

It took the courage of one woman, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, to lay the ground which holds up the Equality Ladder. Though she never lived to see her success of mounting its first rung, her courage inspires others to reach for the top. Seventy-two years after Ms. Stanton delivered her landmark Declaration of Sentiments in 1848, the battle for the right to vote was laid to rest. This laborious fight for equality in the voting booths was the culmination of many who fought to climb this ladder.

This first rung, the 19th Amendment, was not only fought on the picket lines but also abroad by the courage of nearly 22,000 female nurses in WWI. Their dedicated service gave the Women's Movement the advantage it needed to push forward.

In September of 1918, President Wilson pleaded before Congress urging all Senators to look at the sacrifices of the women who served during the war as they considered passing the 19th Amendment. In his speech President Wilson stated, "We have made partners of the women in this war. Shall we admit them only to a partnership of suffering and sacrifice and toil and not to a partnership of privilege and right (to vote)?"

Women may have won the right to vote 86 years ago, but the struggle for Women's Equality in all areas of life continued as new rungs were placed.

In 1948, the Women's Armed Services Integration Act, led by Sen. Margaret Chase Smith of Maine, was passed. Upon the moment of its passing on July 8, 1948, Ester Blake became the first woman in the Air Force.

In 1972, Title 9 of the Education Amendments Act was signed, prohibiting sex discrimination generally by public and private institutions of higher education. This enabled many women looking for equal opportunities as collegiate athletes.

The list goes on as new rungs are nailed in, but the top of the ladder has yet to be reached. The fight still goes on for equal pay. According to the United States Census Bureau information from 2004, "the typical woman earned just 77 cents for every dollar earned by the typical man." Efforts to ratify this inequality are hot-button issues for politicians today. The U.S. Armed Forces do not have this pay imbalance.

Women's Equality Day is not about women's history. Yet we observe our past and acknowledge the many accomplishments that were born from this historic day.

This day is a time when we should remember what has enabled this nation to be more in line with our Constitution as we strive to form a more perfect union

Those who have taken a stand upon this ladder of courage begun by Ms. Stanton in 1848 are those who have helped shaped our nation today - a nation where women can vote, serve in the armed forces, become collegiate athletes and much more.