By Monica K. Guthrie, Fort Sill CannoneerAugust 27, 2015
FORT SILL, Okla. (Aug. 27, 2015) -- When Irma Newburn, assistant district attorney for Comanche County, took the podium to speak during the Women's Equality Day luncheon, Aug. 20, she didn't talk about her accomplishments.
The event, organized by the Fort Sill Equal Opportunity Office and located at the Patriot Club, was designed to highlight women's right to vote, however instead of talking about the past and about the struggles to achieve the 19th amendment, Newburn chose a different route.
"In celebrating women's equality day here today, what I would like to share with you is some of the women who have benefited from those who have marched, picketed, protested, suffered, some of the women right here in Comanche County," said Newburn. "Some of the women who have taken advantage of the opportunity that was provided to women to have a say in this democracy," said Newburn.
Newburn shared the stories of Lisa Shaw and Jessica Ortiz Sanchez. In November 2014, Shaw became the first woman associate district judge in Comanche County and won the seat with a 73.4 percent popular vote, the largest percentage in Oklahoma history. Newburn invited Shaw to attend the event and didn't disclose her intent to talk about Shaw's accomplishment. After sharing her story, Newburn invited Shaw to stand and be recognized.
"(The election) went by in a modest way with not a lot of people taking notice of what had happened and (Shaw) is a very very modest person," said Newburn. "But it is a big thing that we have an elected female and she's just such a great person."
Newburn went on to talk about Ortiz Sanchez, a military spouse who is also an attorney. Last December Ortiz Sanchez, with the help of other organizations, worked to pass a law in Oklahoma allowing military attorney-spouses a temporary permit to practice law as long as their spouse is serving on active duty. Ortiz Sanchez was absent from the event because that day she was in court.
"Oftentimes women who struggle, who work hard, do not benefit from the changes that come about. They are not there to see the things that come about," said Newburn. "Mrs. Jessica Ortiz Sanchez is actually the first woman to benefit from the legal change. She's actually practicing here, and I believe that's why she's not here today. She's working."
Spc. Marjorie Phillips with the Noncommissioned Officer Academy, said remembering the accomplishments of women is important not only to her but also to future women. As mother of 2-year-old daughter Peighton, Phillips said she wants her daughter to value where her freedoms come from.
"We didn't have to go through what they went through to be able to give us the right to vote," said Phillips. "I want (Peighton) to be educated on the past so she can appreciate the background and know that how she's able to do the things she can do."
Newburn said she hoped women would see that others are taking advantage of the opportunities afforded them and that there are women, locally, that are accomplishing great things.
"When we have anniversaries or events it gives us time to stop and reflect on the things we are doing well," said Newburn. "It's never wrong to celebrate good things and to acknowledge the things that are happening around us. There is a lot of good going on, and it's important for young women to see that."