Post celebrates Women's Equality Day
August 25, 2011
FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- Fort Jackson celebrated Women's Equality Day by recognizing one of the Army's female pioneers at an Officers' Club luncheon Tuesday afternoon. Col. Priscilla Hamilton, the first woman to command Army Dental Command, was the event's keynote speaker. Hamilton is responsible for five regions and more than 200 Army dental clinics worldwide.
"She is the first female DENCOM commander that we've ever seen, so she is really paving the way for those of us in this career field," said Staff Sgt. Marquita Odum of the Oliver Dental Clinic.
Women's Equality Day was established in 1971 to recognize the passage of the 19th Amendment which gave women the right to vote after a 70 year long struggle. For the past 17 years, Fort Jackson Dental Command has organized luncheons and activities in honor of the day.
"The 19th Amendment was a major turning point in the struggle for women's rights and equality," said Laura Freeman of DENTAC, the event organizer. "Many suffered for the right to vote and endured abuse for this to finally get passed. We want to honor their sacrifices and make sure people are aware that this is a right that should be exercised and not forgotten."
Hamilton shared that she has many firsts during her Army career.
"I was selected as the first female cadet brigade commander at Penn State after I had done so well at cadet camp," Hamilton said. "That was back when there were female boots and females were expected to do the same obstacle courses and training events but we had no tread on our boots."
Hamilton went on to be the first female Dental Corps officer to deploy in Operation Desert Storm along with many other accomplishments but she looks forward to days when her feats will no longer be seen as special.
"All of these will cease to be amazing when there is no longer the first female of anything but when we are truly seen as equal," Hamilton said.
There is still a way ahead for women's equality since the Equal Rights Amendment and International Women's Rights Treaty have not been ratified in the U.S., Hamilton said, and she encouraged all in attendance to remain politically active. The ERA adds equal protection for women into the U.S. Constitution while the Women's Treaty is a United Nations protection for women against international gender injustice. The U.S. is one of only seven countries that have not signed the Women's Treaty.
"Do not squander your right to vote," Hamilton said. "Continue to exercise it and make your voice heard. We need the world to hear our voices. Hear our voices as we speak out against injustice and inequality. Hear me as your equal."