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DHA recognizes the service of women on Women's Equality Day

Image of The DHA honored the dignity of women by celebrating Women’s Equality Day, an observance commemorating the 19th Amendment’s ratification.  (DOD graphic by Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute). The DHA honored the dignity of women by celebrating Women’s Equality Day, an observance commemorating the 19th Amendment’s ratification. (DOD graphic by Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute)

In 1873 a federal court issued a decision to convict and fine women’s rights activist Susan B. Anthony.

Dr. Holly O’Reilly explained how Anthony had been arrested for casting a vote at a time when women were not permitted to do so.

O’Reilly, program manager for the DHA’s Sexual Assault/Women’s Behavioral Health Program Management Office, was the keynote speaker at the recent Defense Health Agency’s Women’s Equality Day observance.

The event took place on the 101st anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which prohibits voter discrimination on the basis of sex.

Since 1971 our nation has celebrated Women’s Equality Day. In keeping with this tradition, the DHA used this opportunity to publically recognize the rights and inherent dignity of all women.

A Journey to Recognize Women’s Dignity

“An 1848 meeting of the Seneca Falls Convention is what launched the women’s suffrage movement,” O’Reilly told attendees of the observance. “There were 68 women and 32 men who signed the Declaration of Sentiments, which outlined the rights they were asking for on behalf of American women.”

When the Seneca Falls Convention first assembled, women could not legally vote, nor could they serve in the Armed Forces or receive basic employment benefits.

Through dedicated advocacy work, the Convention and other women’s rights pioneers sought to eliminate these and other injustices. They “petitioned for equal rights for all, regardless of color or sex,” O’Reilly said.

Through their dedicated efforts these pioneers led the nation on a journey to reverse the injustices of the past and create space for their participation in American public life.

Creating a More Inclusive Environment

The ratification of the 19th Amendment was a major turning point in this journey.

After the 19th Amendment was ratified, the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, the Equal Pay Act of 1963, and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 all helped to create more opportunities for women in American society.

“In 1976, women were permitted, for the first time, to enter all of the Service Academies,” O’Reilly shared.

“In 19792nd Lt. Marcella Hayes became the first female pilot to join the Armed Forces.” 

Recognizing Women as Leaders

In 1993, 1st Lt. Jeannie Leavitt became the nation’s first female fighter pilot. And in 2012, as a colonel, she became the first female to command an Air Force fighter wing.

In 2015, O’Reilly stated, “Capt. Kristen Griest, 1st Lt. Shaye Harver, and Maj. Lisa Jaster became the first women to graduate from the Army ranger school.”   

In 1984, Congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro became the first woman to be named a candidate for Vice President. In 2021, Senator Kamala Harris became the first woman of color to be elected Vice President.

Pursuing a More Perfect Union

In her concluding remarks, O’Reilly stressed the importance of recognizing women for their hard work and their achievements.

Celebrating Women’s Equality day gives all Americans an opportunity to recognize this truth and to create a culture respects their dignity by encouraging their inclusion in all aspect of American life.

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Jul 11, 2023

Women in the U.S. Military

Women have served in the U.S. military throughout its history — either officially or unofficially — in both supporting roles and as combatants. Prior to World War I, women served primarily in the roles of nurse, physician, laundress, armament worker, communications support, as well as combatant.

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Last Updated: July 11, 2023
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