By Spc. Howard Alperin, MND-B PAOMarch 23, 2009
CAMP LIBERTY, Iraq - More than 140 years ago, Lucy Hobbs became the first woman to graduate dental school. The achievement is only half the story. For several years, Lucy Hobbs was denied admission to several dental schools on the basis of being a woman. She persisted though, and eventually earned the reputation, 'the lady who pulls teeth,' putting to rest any doubts about women's abilities as dentists.
The first woman to conduct a symphony orchestra, the first woman to be elected to Congress, the first woman to be part of a U.S. presidential cabinet, and the first woman director of a major corporation, were just a few of the many examples mentioned at the Women's History Month observance here, March 20.
"In preparing for this event, I was amazed at all the firsts that women were able to do, I did not realize how much history women have played a role in," said Capt. Elizabeth Shumpert, co-coordinator of the Women's History Month observance for Multi-National Division-Baghdad.
"Women's History Month means taking time out of our busy schedules to recognize the accomplishments of women," said Shumpert, originally from Arlington, Texas. "It means acknowledging the milestones women have reached in history."
'Women Taking the Lead to Save Our Planet' is this year's Women's History Month's theme. Since its inception in 1987, the month of March has provided Soldiers an opportunity to review a particular theme among the many roles women take on in their lives.
Women are influencing the conservation and preservation of planet Earth and its assets; they play a key role in education and research, said Maj. Mindy Kimball, the featured speaker at this year's Women's History Month observance and deputy of the Space Support Element, 1st Cav. Div.
Kimball, a native of Vacaville, Calif., is well aware of the purpose Women's History Month serves.
"It reminds both women and men how important diversity is," she said.
For generations, women have helped to bring forth justice, civil rights, and opportunity for all Americans.
"They have taken a stand for civil rights issues and equality," said Shumpert. "They know the feeling of being looked down upon and considered less than equal."
Doors really began to open as women gained the right to vote and pushed for equality, Kimball continued. They are an active voice in history.
It has been the signature role of women providing daily guidance that has made a difference in strengthening communities and families.
"Children see how moms' excel in their lives, and it shows how much they can accomplish as they grow up," said Sgt. 1st Class Ann Preston of Austin, Texas.
Women have also paved the way in helping others to realize their dreams. They continue to stay motivated.
"I want to show young women that anything is possible," said Sgt. 1st Class Marilyn Reed, of Cleveland, Texas. "I want them to realize their potential, not to limit themselves and not to lower their standards. There is so much to reach for."
Women's contributions to history mirror their accomplishments in the military. When given the opportunity, women can excel, even in the military, said Reed.
"The accomplishments of women in the military speak for themselves. Just look at how big the numbers are of women in the military now," said Preston. "The multiple deployments they are doing and the progress made in the daily operations and missions are all part of women's contributions to the military."
Women in the Army have proven to be worthy assets. One example seen time and again across Iraq is how much they are counted on for searches of women at checkpoints and going into homes, Kimball emphasized.
There are strengths in differences in the Army."
Interestingly, the women of Iraq are making strides as well, noted Kimball. Recently, the elections in Iraq showed the development that Iraqi society is making, as one-third of the candidates running for office were women. The government of Iraq made a conscious effort to have women on the ballots.
Iraqi women are becoming more and more significant to the Iraqi workforce, said Kimball.
"What is happening now in Iraq is very similar to what happened in the U.S. during World War II. Iraqi women are coming of age as productive members of society while the men of their country are fighting in the ISF. It is reminiscent of Rosie the Riveter, the promotion that pushed for women to join the workforce during WWII, and how U.S. women advanced by leaps and bounds when so many men were gone during the war," said Kimball.
Women's History Month brings forth the challenges from past lessons learned that denied women a fair chance at making contributions to all levels of society. It takes place every March as a reminder to men and women of the progress achieved and the progress left to achieve.