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WED - a look at the incredible women who changed history

ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. -- Our nation will celebrate the extraordinary accomplishments women have made in service to this nation, Aug. 26.

Throughout American history, women have played an ever growing and important role in defending the U.S. From serving the nation as Airmen, elected officials, or appointees to high office - these are some of the defining contributions to American culture.

Women's Equality Day, established in Aug. 26, 1971, commemorates the 1920 passage of the 19th Amendment to the constitution of the U.S., granting women the right to vote. The women who fought for the right to vote serve as an inspiration to us all.

Carrie Chapman Catt

Carrie Chapman Catt, a women's suffrage leader, campaigned for the 19th Amendment. She served as president of the National American Women's Suffrage Association she founded, the League of Women Voters, and the International Alliance of Women.

From her first endeavors in Iowa working for women's suffrage in the 1880s, to her last in Tennessee in 1920, she supervised dozens of campaigns, mobilized numerous volunteers, and made hundreds of speeches. After the passage of the 19th Amendment, Catt retired from NAWSA. During this period she was frequently recognized as one of the most prominent female leaders of her time.

Alice Paul

Alice Paul, American feminist and social reformer, was an active supporter of women's rights and used her skills as a speaker to fight for the 19th Amendment.

Paul helped form the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage, which later merged with the Woman's Party to form the National Woman's Party in 1917. During the 1920s and 1930s, Paul focused on equality for women all over the world, and in 1928 she founded the World Party for Equal Rights for Women.

When a Newsweek interviewer asked Paul why she dedicated her whole life to women's equality, she credited her farm upbringing by quoting an adage she learned from her mother, "When you put your hand to the plow, you can't put it down until you get to the end of the row."

Susan B. Anthony

Susan B. Anthony began as an activist in the anti-slavery movement. When slaves were set free, she shifted her attention to women's rights. Anthony worked alongside Elizabeth Stanton to start a newspaper called The Revolution.

The newspaper, first published in 1868, advocated an eight-hour work day and equal pay for equal work. It promoted a policy of purchasing American-made goods, while encouraging immigration to rebuild the south and settle the entire country. Anthony was convinced by her work for temperance that women needed the right to vote if they were to influence public affairs.

As our nation observes Women's Equality Day 2013, our nation not only commemorates the passage of the 19th Amendment, but also call attention to women's continuing efforts toward full equality. Women have made great strides in the workplace, but inequality still persists.

There's still a gender gap that needs to be rectified. Women hold only 27 percent of jobs in science and engineering, which are critical to our economic growth in the 21st century. It was reported in 2010, that women made 77 cents to every dollar a man earned. This gap increases among minority women and those with disabilities. These disparities should remind Americans that the work toward women's equality remains unfinished.