Navy Commemorates Women's Equality Day

Story Number: NNS110826-10Release Date: 8/26/2011 6:39:00 AM
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By Lt. Laura K. Stegherr, Diversity Directorate Public Affairs

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- The Chief of Naval Operations Heritage Committee, in collaboration with Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, celebrated the 91st anniversary of women's right to vote through a 5K fun run event at the Arlington Annex Aug. 26.

The event, held in conjunction with Women's Equality Day, was designed to commemorate the long struggle of generations of women to gain suffrage, while promoting health and fitness goals for both uniformed and civilian women.

"It was great to see men and women of all ability levels coming together to take part in this run," said Chief Operations Specialist Jessica Myers, senior enlisted advisor for the Navy's Office of Women's Policy. "While it was meant as a recreational event, it's important to recognize the many sacrifices made by previous generations that give women like me the opportunities I have to serve today."

The women's suffrage movement began more than 160 years ago, in 1848 at the Seneca Falls Convention in Seneca Falls, New York. Convened by suffragist leaders Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, the committee published a Declaration of Sentiments which outlined key social, civil and political demands for women, helping the cause of women's suffrage gain national prominence. Nearly 72 years later, on August 26, 1920, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was passed, granting women throughout the United States the right to vote.

To honor and commemorate the passing of the 19th Amendment, in 1971 New York Congresswoman Bella Abzug introduced and Congress signed a resolution to designate August 26 as Women's Equality Day. Today, the annual observance recognizes the anniversary of suffrage and of women's continued efforts toward equal rights in the United States.

While today 93 percent of billets in the Navy are open to women, it was only in the last century that opportunities for women were extended.

With the passage of the Women's Armed Services Integration Act on June 12, 1948, women gained permanent status in the Armed Services. The first six enlisted women were sworn into the regular Navy July 7, 1948 and Oct. 15, 1948, the first eight female officers were commissioned.

Women were first assigned to selected non-combatant ships in 1978, and opportunities were later broadened to include service in combatants in 1994 following the repeal of the combat exclusion law. Most recently, in April 2010, the Navy announced a policy change that allows women to serve on submarines.

Today, women may be permanently assigned to ships, aviation squadrons, submarines, afloat staffs, and units of the Naval Construction Force. 65,330 active-duty women and female reservists are currently serving in the Navy, comprising 16.8 percent of the force. Additionally, nearly 50,000 women serve across the Navy in a wide-range of specialties as civilian employees.

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