By Rhonda Apple and Jim GoodwinMarch 19, 2014
JOINT BASE MYER-HENDERSON HALL, Va. - Women's historical achievements have helped shape not just the United States military, but the cultural, political and social fabric of the nation itself, according to a founding member of the National Women's History Museum.
That was one of the key messages Joan Wages, museum founding board member, delivered to a crowd of more than 50 during a National Women's History Month speech at the Fort Myer Officers' Club March 12.
"Women's history is America's history," said Wages.
Wages also announced that legislation was recently introduced in the current session of the U.S. Congress to fund a planned National Women's History Museum in Washington D.C. - a critical first step in capturing and honoring the historical achievements of women.
Although yet to be funded, designed, or built, the museum has a full staff, including a board of directors, advisory council, and fully-functional website. The museum would be the first solely dedicated to the contributions of women to the "social, cultural and economic, and political life" of the U.S., according to its website, which can be reached at www.nwhm.org.
The website is chock-full of fact sheets, blog entries, petitions, and even online exhibits of significant historical contributions and events women led or played a key role. Wages also highlighted a range of women's significant moments in history, including Sybil Ludington, Mary Elizabeth Bowser, Deborah Sampson and Virginia Hall.
Although not contained in a physical building, the museum has still served a purpose beyond mere fact sheets and solicitations for support. The museum lobbied Congress to have a seven-ton statue of the original founders of the suffrage movement - Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Susan B. Anthony - moved from a "76-year confinement" in the crypts of the U.S. Capitol to that building's rotunda, where it was officially dedicated, according to Wages.
Introduced by Col. Fern O. Sumpter, commander of Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Wages encouraged attendees to learn more about the museum and women's history to "empower individuals as we move toward the future," she said.
"Studying history is a very empowering topic," said Wages, who has spent 15 years advocating for construction of the museum. "It gives us a framework to use as far as thinking about the past. It helps us to explore the evolution of how we got to where we are."
Sumpter characterized the occasion for Women's History Month as a time to honor both the sacrifices and accomplishments of all women, including those who shaped the U.S. military, such as Mary Edward Walker, the first female surgeon in the U.S. Army and the only woman to receive the Medal of Honor and Lt. Elsie S. Ott, the first woman to receive the Air Medal for her actions as an air evacuation nurse during World War II.
"Women have demonstrated their character, courage and commitment as mothers, educators, institution builders, business, labor, political and community leaders, relief workers, religious leaders and chief executive officers," said Sumpter, who is the first female African-American to command the joint base.
Sumpter also emphasized the contributions women have made in U.S. military history.
Women's History Month concludes March 31.
Additional Women's History Month events in the National Capital Region include the 4th Annual Army G-8 Women's Symposium March 19 from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. in Room B6 at the Pentagon Conference Center, and a musical concert by The U.S. Army Band March 20, 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Women in Service for America Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery. The concert will feature performances by the U.S. Army Voices (lunch will not be provided; patrons can bring a bagged lunch).
Reservations for the symposium must be made no later than March 17 by calling Desiree Duckett at 703-545-1630 or email email@example.com. No reservations are necessary to attend the concert, which is open to the public.
Editor's note: Lauren Poindexter contributed to this article.