By Samantha HillAugust 23, 2018
Starting in middle school, Josephine "Jo" Scruggs volunteered at voting polls, encouraging anyone who could vote to do so. But as a black woman in rural Tennessee, she was not able to vote until she was 24 years old because of Jim Crow laws.
"I know you didn't come here for a history lesson, but it's just good to know where we came from so we do not make the mistake of going back or being taken back," said Scruggs.
Scruggs shared her experience during Redstone Arsenal's Women's Equality Day celebration, which marks the 98th anniversary of women earning the right to vote. Hosted by Army Contracting Command, Soldiers, families and civilians joined together to celebrate the valuable and lasting contributions women have made over the years.
Women have played a key role in military readiness since its early days. During the Revolutionary War, women served as nurses, cooks and sometimes even spies. In World War II, women support the war efforts both at home and abroad. During the war, about 20,000 people were working on what is now Redstone Arsenal during peak production. About 38 percent of the labor force was women who worked in production facilities, loading and painting shells, making grenades and working with dangerous gases and explosives.
"As a father who just put his daughter into the Virginia Military Institute, traditionally an all-male school when I went there, I am fully invested in gender equality," said Maj. Gen. Paul Pardew, commanding general of ACC.
During the celebration, Pardew paid tribute to his new command sergeant major, Command Sgt. Maj. Jill Crosby. He said she is one of two command sergeant majors serving the Army at the two-star level.
"She is a tremendous example of what women can and are doing at the highest levels in command today," he said. "She's certainly an inspiration to all of us."
During the event, Scruggs, a career educator who worked in the Metro Nashville Public School system for 25 years, urged women to keep pushing forward and not be discouraged.
"There is a glass ceiling out there. Nobody said you couldn't break that ceiling. We've broken everything else," she said. "The only thing that keeps you from soaring as high as you can go, is you. Believe in yourself."
Growing up in a segregated town, Scruggs told the women in the audience to support the other women in their lives.
"I'd like to challenge you to keep working first at being the best you that you can be, then work on helping others reach their potential," said Scruggs. "Somebody helped each one of us."
Scruggs worked as the administrator for the First Baptist Church Child Development Center and Academy and served in that ministry for 12 years. She earned a bachelor's and master's degree in health, physical education and recreation from Tennessee State University and coached basketball, track and golf for 20 years.