WASHINGTON - A Maryland state senator told attendees at Joint Base Anacostia Bolling's (JBAB) Women's Equality Day luncheon that getting involved is the most important thing women can do.
Sen. Katherine Klausmeier, a legislator in Maryland since 1995, said her involvement in public matters started 25 years ago, joining the local Parent-Teacher Association (PTA).
She quickly became the president of the organization at a time when a new school was desperately needed.
As PTA president, she had the opportunity to address the Board of Education and help justify the need for the new school
"I was nervous and did not want to do it," she reflected. "I thought I signed up to sell fundraising gift wrap."
Regardless, she did do it – and was successful in getting the new school, as well as several more new schools that followed.
"I was able to pull everyone together to work as a team," she said. "I felt really good about that."
That success and involvement lead to further endeavors. In the early 1990s, she served as vice president for the Commission for Women in Baltimore County, where she focused on issues such as domestic violence and the Family and Medical Leave Act.
She described her involvement as a "domino effect," resulting in her election to the House of Delegates in 1995.
"Politics were completely new to me, Klausmeier said. "Twenty five years ago I hardly knew who our President was."
Klausmeier said she worked hard, knocking on doors, raising funds and campaigning for issues that she believed were important.
"You just go out there and do what you need to do," she emphasized.
Klausmeier pointed out that women have had the right to vote for less than 100 years, and she is planning a celebration to commemorate the centennial anniversary in 2020.
Although women have come a long way, Klausmeier said they have further to go. She acknowledged she is often treated different than her male colleagues.
"Sometimes you just have to keep fighting for what you believe in," she said.
The luncheon's audience gained insight into what others before them believed in; hearing about the history of equality for women.
Women's Equality Day celebrates and recognizes the struggle for women's rights, which dates back to 1777 when females lost the right to vote in New York.
In 1848, leaders such as Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Staton organized and convened the first Women's Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, NY.
Anthony was arrested with some of her supporters for trying to vote and was held on a $1,000 bond. The judge at her trial dismissed the time served and fined her $100 for illegal voting.
Anthony passed away in 1906, four years before the state of Wyoming granted women the right to vote.
The Women's Suffrage Movement entered the national political arena in 1912 when Theodore Roosevelt ran against Woodrow Wilson with a progressive platform that included Women's Suffrage.
Although he lost the election, on the eve of Wilson's inauguration, hundreds of females paraded for women's rights and were attacked and injured by a mob, but no arrests were made.
In 1919, the Nation's Woman's Party lit a "Watchfire for Freedom," which was maintained until the Suffrage Amendment was passed by the U.S. Senate on June 4.
After years of lobbying states to ratify the amendment, Tennessee became the first state to do so. The 19th Amendment, the Susan B. Anthony Amendment, became law on Aug. 26, 1920.
JBAB Commander, Navy Capt. Anthony T. Calandra, shared that "the rights of women today rest on the backs of the brave pioneers of long ago."
"Though women have made great strides and continue to do so each and every day – especially in the military services – females continue to work toward equal treatment in other aspects of life," Calandra said.
"Women today still face many challenges and have more to accomplish. I encourage all to keep moving forward," he concluded.