Women led throughout history
February 28, 2013
ANNISTON ARMY DEPOT, Ala. -- The 2013 National Women's History Month theme, Women Inspiring Innovation through Imagination, honors generations of women who, throughout American history, have used their intelligence, imagination, sense of wonder and tenacity to make extraordinary contributions to our country.
American women have been leaders, not only in securing their own rights of suffrage and equal opportunity, but also in the abolitionist movement, the emancipation movement, the industrial labor movement, the civil rights movement and other movements, especially the peace movement, which create a more fair and just society for all.
At Anniston Army Depot, women hold numerous leadership positions.
Overall, on the depot there are approximately 3,255 employees, about 800 of whom are women, equating to 25 percent of the installation's workforce.
In the United States, National Women's History Month began in 1981. Congress petitioned President Reagan to proclaim the week beginning March 7, 1982, as Women's History Week. He did so, saying,
"American women of every race, creed and ethnic background helped found and build our nation in countless recorded and unrecorded ways…As leaders in public affairs, American women not only worked to secure their own rights of suffrage and equal opportunity but also were principal advocates in the abolitionist, temperance, mental health reform, industrial labor and social reform movements, as well as the modern civil rights movement."
Women's History Week was recognized for five years, until the National Women's History Project lobbied Congress to designate the entire month of March as National Women's History Month.
President Reagan issued such a proclamation in 1987.
The National Women's History Museum, which has an online presence at nwhm.org, plans to be the first museum built on the National Mall that was designed by a woman.
Founded in 1996, the museum does not have a physical location yet, but shares numerous exhibits online through photographs and information.
One area of the museum's research has been the effect of women on the Temperance Movement.
Nineteenth-Century women worked together to enforce temperance because they viewed alcohol consumption as a major social problem. At that time alcohol was unregulated and saloons were everywhere, tempting husbands and sons to drink.
Alcoholism often led to domestic abuse and was a drain on household incomes in an era when there were few wage-earning opportunities for women.
First targeting the public sources of alcohol (saloons and "joints"), the movement became organized and fought for laws restricting its availability and educating children about its dangers.
In 1873, women in a number of states staged a revolt, shutting down several thousand saloons. This led to the creation of the Woman's Temperance Union. By 1890, the WCTU had 150,000 members, and was the first nationwide organization composed entirely of women.
The organization advocated women's suffrage, prison reform and public-health improvements as well as temperance. After the WCTU came out for woman suffrage, the liquor industry became one of the strongest opponents of votes for women.
Most of the WCTU's activities were peaceful, with members lobbying, organizing and lecturing. Carry Nation, from Kansas, was an exception. Believing temperance to be the will of God, she strode into saloons wielding a hatchet. She started selling souvenir hatchet pins in 1901 to support her cause.
Between 1905 and 1917, many states passed laws banning alcohol. In 1919, temperance advocates succeeded nationally, as the Senate passed the 18th Amendment, barring the sale of intoxication liquor. The Volstead Act defined "intoxicating" and allowed the government to enforce the amendment.
Though the 18th Amendment was repealed in 1933 by the 21st Amendment, today, women still work to promote sobriety.
In 1980, a grieving mother started Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Since then, this grassroots organization has raised national awareness of drunk driving and underage drinking, and MADD has lobbied for laws preventing both.
In 1980, two MADD chapters were formed, in California and Maryland. Two years later, 100 chapters existed and President Reagan announced the Presidential Commission on Drunk Driving.
The Minimum Driving Age Law passed in 1984. With the help of MADD's educational campaigns and laws they lobbied to get enacted, alcohol-related traffic fatalities dropped to a 30-year low in 1993. In 2000, a national law was passed limiting a driver's blood alcohol level (BAC) to .08.
Anniston Army Depot's Equal Employment Opportunity Office encourages everyone to learn more about the women's movement and the role of female leaders throughout history. Among the National Women's History Museum's many online exhibits are photos and information on the women who have run for president, female spies throughout American history and much more.
Resources for this article included the National Women's History Museum at www.nwhm.org and the National Women's History Project at www.nwhp.org.