By KATIE KINDELAN, ABC News
(NASHVILLE, Tenn.) — A team of all-female elite skydivers is taking to the skies to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote.
The 11 members of the Highlight Pro Skydiving Team will jump from the skies Tuesday in Nashville, Tennessee, which was the final state to ratify the 19th Amendment on Aug. 18, 1920.
“It was a moment in history that we wanted to highlight,” Melanie Curtis, co-captain of the Highlight team, told ABC News’ Good Morning America. “We’re using skydiving to capture attention and then bringing that attention to social justice initiatives, to women’s rights, to gender equality, to equality at large.”
Curtis and her 10 teammates will be making their fifth jump together on Tuesday in Nashville. They descend from the sky at each jump carrying flags with messages like “votes for women,” “shall not be denied” and “equality can’t wait.”
Their last jump took place in July in Seneca Falls, New York, the home of the first women’s rights convention.
“It was so phenomenal just to be in the presence of the place of history, where the birthplace was, and to see and be a part of this history,” said Melissa Nelson Lowe, a Highlight team member. “And it’s so exciting to be able to do something so valuable in this sport that I love and carry a message that’s so important.”
The Highlight jumps, which will also take place this year in New York City and Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, were supposed to be big, live events that drew hundreds or thousands of people, including young girls who could look up to the women in the sky.
When the coronavirus pandemic happened, the team decided to continue to jump but to livestream their jumps so that people around the world could watch at home.
“I just think about being a young girl myself and being inspired by athletes on TV and watching the Olympics,” said Nelson Lowe. “Even though we can’t have live events, I still feel that we can influence women and girls on what we’re doing and showcasing our sport.”
“The suffragists also faced a global pandemic when, in 1918, they faced the Spanish Flu,” added Curtis. “The irony of us facing that now is not lost on us.”
Curtis said she hopes that as people watch the Highlight team — whose uniforms are purple, white and gold, the colors of the women’s suffrage movement — they find inspiration and the courage to be “bold” and “brave,” like the leaders of the suffrage movement were a century ago.
“To really get what it took to secure the right to vote for women in the U.S., it was 72 years,” she said. “It takes so long to change hearts and minds and so it takes bold, brave moves and that’s the core mission of the team, to inspire women and girls to live a bold, brave life of their own design.”
“Women are underrepresented in skydiving and women are underrepresented in media and government, on boards of businesses,” Curtis added. “We see that under-representation everywhere so it’s not just skydiving for us, it’s more about those core values of what it looks like to be bold and brave and to use your voice and, right now, use your vote.”
The Highlight team’s women’s rights jumps can be viewed live on the team’s Facebook page.
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