Four women descended from a Cessna 182 flying 5,000 feet above the Alice Paul Institute Saturday to celebrate the centennial anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, which guaranteed women’s right to vote.
Kaz Sheekey, Amy Chmelecki, Sara Curtis and Keri Bell, members of the all-female Highlight Pro Skydiving Team, performed a fast-moving but spectacular aerial display, sporting flags and trailing smoke in purple, white and yellow — suffragist colors symbolizing loyalty, purity and hope — as they soared through the hazy sky.
“Election Day takes place just 24 days after this special jump, giving us the opportunity for one last push to encourage and inspire voting – a right women secured 100 years ago this year,” Melanie Curtis, professional skydiver and co-founder of the Highlight Pro Skydiving Team, said in a press release prior to the event.
The site for this event was chosen in honor of Alice Paul, one of the leaders of the women’s suffrage movement who helped secure women’s right to vote. The Alice Paul Institute, located in her birthplace of Mount Laurel, is a non-profit organization that educates the public about her life and work. The institute also offers heritage and girls’ leadership development programs. Saturday’s jump was just one of a series around the country highlighting historic sites in the suffrage movement.
“Alice Paul was a huge leader in that movement, and she saw it through to the end,” said Chmelecki, one of the co-founders of the skydiving team. “So we’re here to honor her.”
The timing of the event also ties in to celebrations for International Day of the Girl, held annually on Oct. 11 since 2012. The holiday aims to increase awareness of gender inequalities faced by girls worldwide, including access to education, legal rights, medical care and violence toward women.
“Our team goal is to inspire women and girls to live bold brave lives of their own design,” said Chmelecki.
“So jumping in on a day like today, to the home that Alice Paul grew up in, the day before International Day of the Girl, just kind of takes all the things we really love and ties it all into one story. And we really hope that it helps us get that message out there, and that any girls out there seeing us really get inspired to live a brave life of their own.”
“It doesn’t have to be jumping out of airplanes,” added Bell. “But to take the courage to do something different, to do something new and to showcase what you can do.”
The banners which the women carried through the air all had messages related to the women’s suffrage movement. One banner had the dates “1920-2020” on it, celebrating 100 years of the movement. A second read, “Votes for women,” a slogan used by the movement. The third highlighted a quote from the 19th Amendment: “Shall not be denied.”
Curtis noted that Alice Paul set a high standard for pushing boundaries for women, and that she got into skydiving to explore and push her own boundaries.
“I feel this Highlight demo team has kind of a similar drive because we’re not just pushing our own boundaries, but we’re also encouraging other women to do so,” she said.
Added Sheekey, “To actually use the sport to do good and to bring good messages to other people, and hopefully help encourage other women and girls to come in, is the most meaningful part of it all.”
For more photos from the event, click on the gallery below.
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Lori M. Nichols may be reached at [email protected] Follow Lori on Instagram at @photog_lori.
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