In 1971 it was proposed to Congress that Aug. 26th should be designated as National Women’s Equality Day. It took two years before it would officially be recognized.
Women’s equality is defined as women being provided the same rights, resources, opportunities and protections as their male counterparts. This does not mean one should disvalue either side, but rather look to value the strengths and weaknesses of each individually and collectively.
The National Women’s History Project states that this national day was to shed light on the fact that women were treated as second-class citizens and had not been entitled to the full rights of their male counterparts. This day is to serve as a reminder of the continued fight for equal rights and support of their organizations and activities.
During the American Revolutionary War from 1775 to 1783, women filled their first crucial role in the military. George Washington wrote about the desperate needs for good female nurses to attend to all their sick and wounded. While nursing the sick and wounded and attending to the bedding didn’t seem like much, it provided a way into the military when there was thought not to be one.
From these positions, women quickly branched out into other roles from laundresses to cooks. Because of their vast infiltration, women were often overlooked and ignored. This provided women the opportunity to support their country in military roles. For example, some women served as spies to alert American troops of enemy movement. Women were also used to pass messages or contraband.
Women’s roles in aiding their country were vastly limited in comparison to that of the opposing sex. For this reason, many women would disguise themselves as men to fight in the Union and Confederate armies during the Civil War from 1861 to 1865.
Women on the front lines weren’t the only ones fulfilling new roles. While so many men were off fighting, women had to fill the male roles back home on the farm. Additionally, as early as 1861 there were black nurses that were serving in US government hospitals.
During the Spanish-American War, the United States faced a new enemy it had never fought before, typhoid fever. Because of this epidemic, the surgeon general requested more qualified Army nurses. This request paved the way for the development of the Army Nurse Corps.
Women have been steadily infiltrating since they were officially permitted to join the military in 1917, many of whom joined during the first World War to serve as nurses and support staff. During WWII over 400,000 women were serving at home and abroad. This was a huge jump from the 33,000 that were serving during WWI. It wasn’t until 1948 that women were able to fill permanent and regular status in the military, instead of just during times of war.
By the 1970s there was a growing movement of equality and feminism that led to the dissolution of the Women’s Army Corp. Women wanted to be equally valued for their military efforts in defense of our country. The disestablishment of the Women’s Army Corp paved the way for women to be integrated into the regular Army.
In 1994 restrictions were removed, opening up 80% of all military positions to women. It took an additional nine years before all military positions were open, including combat positions. The attacks on September 11, 2001 opened numerous new positions in the United States military, and thereby gave new opportunities that women had not had previously.
With the new opportunities came many new rules and regulations. Women in combat positions became a hot debate after the kidnapping and rescue of 19-year-old Jessica Lynch in Iraq from March of 2003.
As of 2016 women have not had equal right to choose any military occupational specialty, including combat units.
CNN recently reported that there are over 200,000 women in active duty military. Currently, over 69 women are filling the roles of generals and admirals. Women have proved their worth in battle since the beginning of our nation. They showed up to support, nurture and heal those that were sick and wounded during the American Revolutionary War. They used being overlooked to their advantage by gathering pertinent intel against enemies. They continued to branch out until they filled all the branches of the United States Military.