ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Ill. -- The contributions, perseverance, and patriotism of women were celebrated in an event hosted by First Army on March 19 here.

In opening remarks, Maj. Gen. Chris Gentry, First Army deputy commanding general for support, noted that women have played vital roles in the U.S. Army since the Revolutionary War. "And today, women serve in every career field and are critical members of the Army team," he said. "Women's History Month stands as a further testament to the strength the Army enjoys through a high-quality, diverse, all-volunteer force."

Serving as guest speaker for the Rock Island Arsenal Women's History Month observance was Brig Gen. Donna Martin, commandant of the United States Army Military Police School. She reflected on the long fight for women's equality and noted that the struggle continues.

"Throughout history, extraordinary women have fought tirelessly to broaden democracy's reach and to help perfect our union. Through protests and activism, generations of women have fought to give meaning to the idea that we are all created equal," she said. "As today's women and girls reach for new heights, they stand on the shoulders of all those who have come before and carry their legacy. This month we celebrate pioneering women and the victories they won and we continue our work to build a society where our daughters have the same possibilities as our sons."

In addition to voting rights, the women's rights movement produced equal pay legislation and paved the way for women to enter fields that were formerly the exclusive domain of men.

"They have fought to shatter glass ceilings and after decades of slow, steady, and determined progress, they have widened the circle of opportunity for women and girls," Martin said. "Today, more women are their family's main breadwinner than ever before. Women are nearly half of our nation's workers and they are increasingly among the most skilled. More than 60 percent of women with children under 5 serve in the labor force. This increasing percentage of women in the workforce has bolstered our economy and strengthened our families."

But continued vigilance is necessary, she added.

"Today, too many of the opportunities that our mothers and grandmothers had fought for are going unrealized. That is why we should all be committed to tearing down the barriers to full and equal participation in our economy and society," Martin said.

While the plight of women in some other countries is centuries behind the United States, Martin cautioned against grading on the curve.

"Knowing that things could be worse should not stop us from making them better," she said. "When the suffragettes marched in the streets, they envisioned a world where men and women would be truly equal. A century later, we are still squinting, trying to bring that vision into focus. It's up to us to end the self-fulfilling belief that women can't do this, women can't do that. I want to encourage women to dream big, forge a path through the obstacles, and to achieve your full potential."