• U.S. Congresswoman Cheri Bustos, Illinois 17th Congressional District, makes a point during her keynote address at the Women's Equality Day Observance at Rock Island Arsenal, Ill., Aug. 27. (Photo by Maj. Yokeitha A. Ramey, ASC Public Affairs)

    U.S. Congresswoman Cheri Bustos, Illinois 17th...

    U.S. Congresswoman Cheri Bustos, Illinois 17th Congressional District, makes a point during her keynote address at the Women's Equality Day Observance at Rock Island Arsenal, Ill., Aug. 27. (Photo by Maj. Yokeitha A. Ramey, ASC Public Affairs)

  • U.S. Congresswoman Cheri Bustos, Illinois 17th Congressional District, poses with Staff Sgt. Marie Sanders-Gulas, Joint Manufacturing & Technology Center Contracting Division, Army Contracting Command (left) and Master Sgt. Sol Nevarezberrios, senior enlisted adviser, ACC, following her keynote address at the Women's Equality Day Observance at Rock Island Arsenal, Ill., Aug. 27. (Photo by Maj. Yokeitha A. Ramey, ASC Public Affairs)

    U.S. Congresswoman Cheri Bustos, Illinois 17th...

    U.S. Congresswoman Cheri Bustos, Illinois 17th Congressional District, poses with Staff Sgt. Marie Sanders-Gulas, Joint Manufacturing & Technology Center Contracting Division, Army Contracting Command (left) and Master Sgt. Sol Nevarezberrios, senior...

  • U.S. Congresswoman Cheri Bustos, Illinois 17th Congressional District, chats with Maj. Gen. John Wharton, commanding General, Army Sustainment Command, prior to during her keynote address at the Women's Equality Day Observance at Rock Island Arsenal, Ill., Aug. 27. (Photo by Galen Putnam, ASC Public Affairs)

    U.S. Congresswoman Cheri Bustos, Illinois 17th...

    U.S. Congresswoman Cheri Bustos, Illinois 17th Congressional District, chats with Maj. Gen. John Wharton, commanding General, Army Sustainment Command, prior to during her keynote address at the Women's Equality Day Observance at Rock Island Arsenal...

  • U.S. Congresswoman Cheri Bustos, Illinois 17th Congressional District, chats with attendees prior to during her keynote address at the Women's Equality Day Observance at Rock Island Arsenal, Ill., Aug. 27. (Photo by Galen Putnam, ASC Public Affairs)

    U.S. Congresswoman Cheri Bustos, Illinois 17th...

    U.S. Congresswoman Cheri Bustos, Illinois 17th Congressional District, chats with attendees prior to during her keynote address at the Women's Equality Day Observance at Rock Island Arsenal, Ill., Aug. 27. (Photo by Galen Putnam, ASC Public Affairs)

  • U.S. Congresswoman Cheri Bustos, Illinois 17th Congressional District, presents the keynote address at the Women's Equality Day Observance at Rock Island Arsenal, Ill., Aug. 27. (Photo by Maj. Yokeitha A. Ramey, ASC Public Affairs)

    U.S. Congresswoman Cheri Bustos, Illinois 17th...

    U.S. Congresswoman Cheri Bustos, Illinois 17th Congressional District, presents the keynote address at the Women's Equality Day Observance at Rock Island Arsenal, Ill., Aug. 27. (Photo by Maj. Yokeitha A. Ramey, ASC Public Affairs)

  • U.S. Congresswoman Cheri Bustos, Illinois 17th Congressional District, delivers the keynote address at the Women's Equality Day Observance at Rock Island Arsenal, Ill., Aug. 27. (Photo by Galen Putnam, ASC Public Affairs)

    U.S. Congresswoman Cheri Bustos, Illinois 17th...

    U.S. Congresswoman Cheri Bustos, Illinois 17th Congressional District, delivers the keynote address at the Women's Equality Day Observance at Rock Island Arsenal, Ill., Aug. 27. (Photo by Galen Putnam, ASC Public Affairs)

ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Ill. -- By running for Congress, this resident of East Moline, Ill., knew she was getting out of her comfort zone.

"This is where I've had any measure of success," Cheri Bustos said of getting out of the comfort zone.

After all, she was living a good life of raising three boys with her husband, Gerry, had worked in the mass media, and later in the healthcare field. But in 2007, Bustos decided to further her desire for public service by running and winning a seat on the city council.

Six year later, Bustos again is out of her defined "comfort zone" and now serves as the U.S. representative from Illinois' 17th District after winning election in November 2012. In doing so, she became the first woman in U.S. history to win that district.

On Aug. 27, she served as the guest speaker at Rock Island Arsenal's Women's Equality Day observance in Heritage Hall.

On Aug. 26, 1920, the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified, giving the women's suffrage movement a landmark victory in its long-fought battle for justice and equality.

She explained the comfort zone as the area or space between a dot and its perimeter drawn as a circle. Outside the circle is where the "magic" happens, as women in the suffrage movement found out.

Bustos described these women and other female achievers as people who declined to be "well- behaved."

" 'Well-behaved women seldom make history,' " Bustos said quoting Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of former President Franklin Roosevelt.

She cited other women like Rosa Parks, a black civil rights leader, who would not give up her bus seat to a white man in Montgomery, Ala., in 1955. That event played a significant role leading to other historic events that eventually led to the end of the "separate but equal" policy in American society.

Bustos also quoted the first woman in U.S. history to become secretary of state, Madeleine Albright. " 'Women who don't help other women deserve a special place in hell,' " Bustos said, calling the observation pretty blunt.

The challenge, however, is to "help the next generation … we owe that to the next generation," she said.

Bustos said that she is one of 85 new members of the 113th Congress. "Women make up less than 20 percent of Congress. We still have a long way to go," she said.

Yet, Bustos expressed amazement when she said that 95 percent of the military occupational specialties in the Army are open to women.

The Army, as it transitions, is reviewing the Soldier 2020 concept, which is an effort to enhance force readiness and capability by identifying the best-qualified Soldiers for all positions. The full realization of this effort will support the opening of previously closed positions to women, the Army has recently stated.

She also encouraged women to get involved in civic affairs, as she did by serving on numerous nonprofit boards; as president of the Women's Connection, one of Illinois' largest women's organizations; and on the city council in East Moline, which resulted in economic development in the downtown area.

"Think about being leaders in your community," she said, explaining that's where policy changes take place.

After Bustos' remarks, Maj. Gen. John Wharton, commanding general, U.S. Army Sustainment Command and senior commander of RIA, spoke before Bustos was presented a plaque for her visit.

Wharton said that 16 percent of the Army is comprised of women; that women make up 35 percent of the Island's workforce; and that they represent 25 percent of those in the military here.

"We know you're truly a friend of Rock Island Arsenal," Wharton said. "Your leadership is felt by everyone here."

At the behest of New York Congresswoman Bella Abzug, Congress in 1971 designated Aug. 26 as "Women's Equality Day." The date was selected to commemorate the 1920 passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, granting women the right to vote.

As a tribute to all women in the Army, a tri-signed letter, penned by the secretary of the Army, the Army chief of staff and the sergeant major of the Army, encourages units, agencies and Army activities to plan and execute appropriate commemorative activities to celebrate Women's Equality Day.

Additional resources:

Army.mil: Women in the U.S. Army - http://www.army.mil/women/\

Army G-1 (Human Resources): Women in the Army - http://www.armyg1.army.mil/hr/wita/

Army Women's Museum - http://www.awm.lee.army.mil/

U.S. Army Center for Military History/Women in Army History - http://www.history.army.mil/html/topics/women/index.html

The Library of Congress: (http://womenshistorymonth.gov/collections.html)

For more information on Bustos: (http://bustos.house.gov/)

Page last updated Wed August 28th, 2013 at 00:00