Women continue to make history
April 9, 2010
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. - The local community paid tribute to American women pioneers during a Women's History Month celebration at the American Lake Community Center March 24, hosted by 555th Engineer Brigade.
The celebration featured a guest speaker, Clover Park School District's superintendent, Deborah LeBeau, and CPSD middle school student, Anna-Marie Pence, essay contest winner.
LeBeau spoke about this year's theme, "Writing Women Back Into History."
"Today, we recognize decades of progress, and are taking actions to ensure that we continue to acknowledge the ongoing efforts through documenting current accomplishments and experiences, in textbooks and other educational materials," LeBeau said. "Although women have been shaping history since the dawn of civilization, the concept of Women's History Month began to take root in 1857, when women from New York City factories protested (poor) working conditions."
Generation after generation of women fought for equal rights. Susan B. Anthony was one of countless women who stood up for what she believed in during a time when women were considered inferior by society.
Pence shared why she considered Anthony to be among the most important women in American history.
"She worked more than 50 years to earn women the right to vote," Pence said.
Born in 1820, Anthony's activism for women's rights peaked during the 1850s. In 1854, she organized petition drives for women's rights and suffrage. Anthony passed away in 1906, but largely due to her efforts, women voted for the first time in America's history 14 years later.
"Though Susan B. Anthony did not live to see the results of her efforts, she is still one of the most important women in history," Pence said.
Interest in women's issues blossomed in the 1960s, and by the 1970s, there was a growing feeling that women's history needed to be taught in schools.
In 1978, the California Education Task Force of the Sonoma County Commission began a "Women's History Week." It was the first officially recognized holiday. Schools followed the lead by hosting their own women's history week programs. Three years later, Congress passed a resolution establishing National Women's History Week.
"In 1987, Congress expanded the celebration to a month, and March was declared National Women's History Month," LeBeau said.
LeBeau recognized the accomplishments of women pioneers of the past and present.
From Amelia Earhart flying over the Atlantic in 1928 to Kathryn Bigelow becoming the first female director to win an Oscar this year, women have made countless contributions - many of which were never recorded.
"Undeniably, many of the tremendous contributions made by women in the development and growth of society have not been well-documented or prominently portrayed throughout the years," said Lt. Col. Mark Deschenes, deputy commander for 555th Engr. Bde. "However, history is full of women who led our nation towards change, ... women who continue to break down barriers to benefit the world with their talents, creativity and energy."
In addition to recognizing women pioneers, LeBeau said it's a time to thank those who serve in the Armed Forces. She pointed out that women have served in four major wars since World War II, filling a variety of roles.
"It's a time to honor the sacrifices and accomplishments of women who not only shaped our armed services, but have shaped our country," LeBeau said. "They are Soldiers on the front line, they are leaders, officers and noncommissioned officers standing with our troops."
As women continue to push forward and break down barriers, it is up to us to make sure our history books don't fail to document what they have achieved.
"Although historically the contributions of women have not always been captured with the appropriate prominence in our history books, they are incredibly significant, and every effort should be made to appreciate them," Deschenes said. "Because if we do not, we will lose the understanding of how our culture evolved and miss full recognition of the true fabric of our society."
Laura M. Levering is a reporter with the Northwest Guardian, Joint Base Lewis-McChord's weekly newspaper.