VMC marks Women's Equality Day
September 4, 2013
By Julie Lucas
Chants of "Stand up women, together we are strong," echoed around post Aug. 26.
Since 1971, Aug. 26 has been designated as Women's Equality Day and this year's ceremony, organized by the Equal Opportunity Office on Caserma Ederle, celebrated the 19th Amendment, which guarantees women's right to vote.
Women and men joined together at the post theater for a "protest march" that led them to Soldiers' Theatre. According to Sgt. Maj. Carolina Johnson, EO adviser, the day was planned to bring awareness to women's struggles for basic rights.
"I thought holding a march would cause people to look, listen and ask questions," Johnson said. "Voting is a duty and honor and shouldn't be taken for granted."
When the group arrived at Soldiers' Theatre they watched a skit with an apathetic young female being urged to vote by two older women. They suggested she should learn about the history of women and voting rights.
The next skit featured Susan B. Anthony, who rapped about being arrested for voting in the 1872 presidential election. The next skit featured Sojourner Truth, a former slave who became the first black woman to win a case against a white man. She wrote a famous speech titled, "Aint I a Woman?" that was delivered at the Ohio Women's Rights Convention in 1851.
The next to speak was Fredrick Douglass, who was the first African American to be nominated for vice president of the United States.
Sgt. Terysa King of U.S. Army Africa, served as the emcee of the event and read the proclamation from President Barack Obama for this year's observance.
"Today, we honor the pioneers of women's equality by doing our part to realize that great American dream -- the dream of a nation where all things are possible for all people," King read.
A prayer was said by Sgt. 1st Class Naomi Rankins, USAB Vicenza, and Sgt. Radia Marquis, 106th Finance Company, sang the Sister Suffragette song with her daughter, Rachel.
Guest speaker of the event was Col. Sara Simmons, who is serving as assistant chief of staff, G-1, USARAF. Simmons spoke about taking time to reflect on the past successes and already established foundations paved by females who struggled throughout history.
One of those women was Christine de Pizan, an Italian-French writer born in Venice in 1364, who was one of the first people to have written about women being equal to men. Simmons also spoke about the Seneca Falls Convention, which was organized by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott in 1848.
"Women were property of their husbands and denied access to colleges and trade schools," Simmons said. "There were four jobs available for women in those days: teaching, sewing, factory work and domestic service; and their wages then belonged to their husbands."
According to Simmons the movement was stalled during the Civil War and everything was shifted to abolishing slavery. Even after 1870 when the 15th Amendment gave black men voting rights, women still didn't have the same freedoms.
After many years of political wrangling that delayed ratification of the 19th Amendment, the vote was tied and came down to one young representative from Tennessee, Harry Burn, who received a letter from his mother to change his original vote.
Simmons then spoke about President John Kennedy signing the Equal Pay Act in 1963, that gave women the right to receive the same amount of pay as a man.
"But I believe we have a template, a model of success with best practices and proven results," Simmons said. "Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and tens of thousands of persistent women and men carved out a path of equality with resolute spirits and dedication. Let's honor the pioneers of women's equality by doing our part -- vote."