Women’s Equality — a day of recognition

Wednesday was the 49th anniversary of Women’s Equality Day, which was designated by Congress in 1971.

According to the National Women’s History Project, the date was selected to commemorate the 1920 passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which granted women the right to vote.

When I think about women fighting for equality I’ve always pondered why they had to fight for the rights, which were guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution. It would take a Women’s Rights Movement on July 13, 1848 in Seneca Falls, New York — 59 years after the U.S. Constitution was ratified — to change the thinking that women were second-class citizens.

I remember being taught about the amendments to the Constitution and I’ve often wondered why there was a need for the 19th Amendment if the Ninth Amendment granted the right to vote. I would soon find out it was needed because women weren’t perceived as equal.

Even though women had the right to vote by 1920, society didn’t change because women weren’t seen as equal to their male counterparts and they definitely didn’t receive the same pay.

Although women have fought in wars dating back to the Revolutionary War, they couldn’t serve as women. And when they were finally accepted, they were given auxiliary roles.

For example, during the Revolutionary, Civil and Mexican Wars, a small number of women were involved in combat, but they had to disguise themselves as men and enlist under aliases. Deborah Samson Gannett, from Plymouth, Massachusetts, was one of the first American woman Soldiers. In 1782, she enlisted under the name of her deceased brother, Robert Shurtleff Samson. For 17 months, Samson served in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. She was wounded twice. She even cut a musket ball out of her own thigh so a doctor wouldn’t find out she was a woman. Years later, in 1804, Samson was awarded a pension for her service. Also during the Revolution War, in 1776, Margaret Corbin fought alongside her husband and 600 American Soldiers as they defended Fort Washington, New York, according to infoplease.com.

During World War II, women began taking jobs for the war effort and the National Labor Board advised employers to adjust women’s salaries comparable to men who worked in similar operations, but this was done only if the employer volunteered to do so, according to infoplease.com.

Since it wasn’t mandatory, employers didn’t increase a woman’s wage and by the end of the war, they were replaced by returning veterans.

In order for women to receive equal pay, it would again take an act, which was passed on June 10, 1963. The Equal Pay Act said it was illegal to pay women lower rates for the same job strictly based on their sex, according to infoplease.com.

There were two court cases in the 1970s, which not only strengthened the Equal Pay Act, the cases would also define what it meant.

I still wonder if there is a disparity between men and women in the workforce. Are we still being treated as second-class citizens? The answer isn’t a simple yes or no; because I know I have the same opportunities and equality as my male counterparts. However, in 2013 women earned 78 percent of men’s wages. I also admit there may be a few intangibles that explain why women are still being paid less than men are. Women are more likely than men to become teachers, and teachers are paid less than other college graduates are. In addition, a woman’s choice to start a family is a factor in the gender gap.

Once a woman decides to have a family, she might work less hours during her pregnancy and take time off after giving birth. If she decided to take a few years off, doing so will also widen the gap.

Taking time away from the workforce or working fewer hours are more common for mothers than fathers and hurts earnings. The American Association of University Women found that 10 years after graduation, 23% of mothers were out of the workforce, and 17% worked part time. Among fathers, only 1% were out of the workforce, and only 2% worked part time, according to www.aauw.org.

Although some might believe the strides women are making are coming at a snail’s pace, the Department of Defense is once again leading the way. Women are allowed to join the Army in jobs that were once only for men and women can now attend the Army Ranger School. Are things really changing in the military? I would say yes, because 50 women have already graduated from Army Ranger School.

According to www.cnas.org, as of July 2019, 46 women had graduated from Infantry Basic Officer Leader Course, 72 women from the Armor Basic Officer Leader Course and 270 enlisted women from infantry and armor one station unit training. As of October 2019, in the regular Army, 1,055 women had accessed into combat specialties while 653 women had completed training and were serving in combat roles. The attrition rate for women during their initial training in these previously closed schools ranges from 11 to 72% (infantry 49%, field artillery 11% and armor 72%), while attrition rates for their male counterpart range from 0.46 to 18% (infantry 18%, field artillery 0.46% and armor 17%). While the Army is succeeding at assessing women into the pipelines, completion rates for initial training remain troubling. All active duty brigade combat teams for infantry, armor and field artillery fields include female Soldiers.

After hearing this, I’m very optimistic about the future. As long as men continue to support us and remain our ally, I know my two daughters have a fighting chance of being seen equal to men. And maybe we will no longer need an act or amendment to treat women equal to men.

Pentagram Editor Catrina Francis can be reached at catrina.s.francis2.civ@mail.mil.

By Catrina Francis

Pentagram Editor