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Keeping the Equal Rights Movement alive: Women’s Equality Day

72nd Medical Group Commander Col. Jennifer Trinkle was the featured guest speaker at the Women's Equality Day Luncheon at the Tinker Chapel Aug. 26. The day commemorates the passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, guaranteeing women's right to vote. (U.S. Air Force photo/Kelly White)

72nd Medical Group Commander Col. Jennifer Trinkle was the featured guest speaker at the Women's Equality Day Luncheon at the Tinker Chapel Aug. 26. The day commemorates the passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, guaranteeing women's right to vote. (U.S. Air Force photo/Kelly White)

On Aug. 18 1920, the 19th Amendment was ratified, ending women’s nearly 75 year battle to gain the right to vote. 

In 1973, Women’s Equality Day was established as a day to celebrate this addition to the Constitution as well as reflect on the benefits of true equality and the role of women in the nation. On Monday, members of the base community gathered in the Tinker Chapel for the annual Women’s Equality Day Luncheon where 72nd Medical Group Commander Col. Jennifer Trinkle spoke to this year’s theme, the Road to Ratification.

“The movement for equal rights will never be over. It needs to be a living thing just as our Constitution needs to be a living document,” Trinkle said. “I stand here today because of those people who were so dedicated in their lives for this cause. They allow me to stand here and voice my opinions as an equal. However, because I stand here I am also charged to keep the movement of civil rights alive as all those who fought for the road to ratification did so long ago.”

Trinkle expanded on how to keep the equal rights movement alive and well with a story involving the Short Sister’s Revolt of 1980 and a dollar coin. 

She explained to the luncheon crowd that she grew up in upstate New York with Seneca Falls, the hotbed for the Women’s Rights Movement, in her backyard. However, it was a school assignment regarding the Constitution that drew her into learning more about the Women’s Rights Movement and her own heritage.

“My great-great grandmother Edith Short was a suffragette. My father decided that he was going to take us on a moving tour, so he loaded us all up in the Plymouth station wagon and headed out. We visited the homestead of Edith and during this time he would explain the suffrage movement and what he learned from his grandmother and imparted it to us,” Trinkle said.

Trinkle said that she and her sister were so moved by the stories of the brave women who came before them that they decided they would stage their own revolt to correct some inequality within the Short household regarding chores.

She explained that every Saturday at 7 a.m., she and her siblings would meet their father in the kitchen for their chore assignments. Her brothers would be tasked with the outdoor chores of mowing and weeding, and she and her sister would be tasked with the indoor chores of cleaning the bathroom, doing laundry and dusting. One day, the two Short sisters decided they had had enough.

“After the chores were divvied out my sister says, ‘Look dad, we’re not going to do that today.’ She proceeded to tell my father that it was unfair that we had to clean up after my brothers every week in their bathroom, yet they got done with their chores by 9 o’ clock,” Trinkle said. “My sister said, ‘We want equal rights. We want to do both indoors and outdoors and we want them to clean their own bathrooms.’”

Their father smiled from ear-to-ear and agreed that from that point forward there would be an equal division of chores.

“My father was one of the biggest supporters of my sister and I,” Trinkle said. “He always encouraged us, was always there and always told us that we could do anything we wanted, that it wasn’t like when Edith grew up. It was because of him that the equal rights movement in our heart lived.”

Keeping the equal rights movement alive in the heart of the next generation is important to Trinkle and before speaking at the luncheon, she decided to pose three questions to the young women who work in the medical group.

The questions were; who is Susan B. Anthony?, what do you know about the suffrage movement and the road to ratification?, and what is the 19th Amendment?

While her Airmen did know the purpose of the 19th Amendment as well as some bits about the women’s suffrage movement, Trinkle was surprised that their knowledge regarding Susan B. Anthony only extended to her being the face on the dollar coin. Trinkle then did what she knew her father would do.

“I went into a litany of history,” she said. “I told them who Susan B. Anthony was and what she brought to the suffrage fight. I told them about Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Stanton who formalized the movement in Seneca Falls at a convention with women who had to sneak out of the house to make this movement happen. I told them about Fredrick Douglass, who in the most serious times of opposition swayed masses of people to the enlightenment of human rights because he was such a predominant part of the civil rights movement for the African American community.”

After this history lesson with her Airmen, one of Trinkle’s proudest moments happened.

“One Airman looked at me and said, ‘You just made that oath of reenlistment so much more important because when we raise our hands and say that oath to protect and defend the constitution of the United States, we’re reaffirming that 19th Amendment and that we will be there to ensure the civil rights movement goes forward,’” she said. “At that moment I smiled from ear- to-ear like my father had for the Short Sisters Revolt, and just like that equal rights was alive again in their hearts in the next generation.”

“We’ve been handed the next generation. It’s our responsibility to keep equal rights, the Constitution and the amendments alive. I charge all of you today to go out and speak to our next generations of suffrages, activists and politicians. Keep the equal rights movement alive, take a simple coin and ask the question, ‘Do you know what this means?’”