FORT BLISS, Texas - Each year on August 26, military personnel gather to celebrate the passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which guaranteed women full voting rights.
In celebrating Women's Equality day, William Beaumont Army Medical Center recognizes not only the significance of women's contributions to the medical profession, but also the value of a diverse and inclusive environment.
The WBAMC family celebrated the historic day in the Clinic Assembly Room on August 15, 2019. The guest speaker for the occasion was Army Sgt. Maj. Tammy Bosier, senior enlisted advisor to the deputy commander of WBAMC.
"The right to vote is kind of like water, you don't miss it until you're thirsty," said Bosier, who is currently attending the United States Army Sergeants Major Academy virtually while continuing full-time in her position at WBAMC. "When you're not counted as an equal, it seers your soul and if you haven't experienced it, you can't imagine it."
While the 19th Amendment was ratified on August 18, 1920 giving women the right to vote nationally, states often had other laws, Bosier added.
"Women had the right to vote, they didn't; however, have the right in every state to enter the voting booth without their husband, meaning that men could go into the voting booth and tell the women how to vote. They didn't have the right to own property, solely in their name, if they inherited property, it had to go in their husbands names," said Bosier, who joined the military in 1986. "If women married a foreign national they would have to give up their citizenship, while men did not. Women weren't allowed to seek contraception without the permission of their husbands."
Throughout history women have fought for equality on many fronts -- even the military, Bosier told the audience. Women have served in every conflict, usually returning to civilian life once the conflict ended. All that changed when the more than 400,000 women serving during World War II -- some became prisoners of war, many received medals and citations for their contributions -- fought for their right to serve, return to their prewar jobs, and receive veterans' benefits.
Some of the key points in history: In 1976 women were allowed to attend the U.S. military academy at West Point, in 1978 women in the U.S. Navy and Marines were allowed to serve on non-combat ships as technicians, nurses, and officers, in 1993 Congress authorizes women to serve on combat ships, in 2000 U.S. Navy Capt. Kathleen McGrath becomes the first women to command a U.S. Navy warship, in 2005 Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester becomes the first woman awarded the Silver Star for combat action, in 2013 women were granted the right to serve in direct ground combat roles, and in 2019, a U.S. District judge ruled that requiring all men to register for a military draft, while excluding women, was unconstitutional.
"We live in exciting times, the only person that can limit you is yourself. We can make excuses or we can make things happen," said Bosier, who deployed to Iraq in 2003. "We're allowed opportunities that our grandmothers only dreamed of."
Col. Michael S. Oshiki, commander of WBAMC, agreed these are exciting times.
"Our connection in Army medicine to women in uniform is quite significant, there are 200,000 women servicing in uniform. The number one field: Medicine -- 40,000 women in the healthcare field across the services," Oshiki said. "And it's not just in uniform, there is another 200,000 women who serve as GS civilians. Medicine is the second highest field, with 86,000."
Military medicine has a long history of women who have become icons, Oshiki continued. He named two in particular from the American Civil War, Dr. Mary Walker was the first female surgeon employed by the U.S. Army and only women to receive the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest military honor for bravery. The Dr. Mary E. Walker Award is named after her. The other was Clara Barton, known as the 'Angel of the Battlefield. She risked her life to bring supplies and support to Soldiers on the field during the war and was the progenitor of the American Red Cross, created in 1881. She served as its president until 1904.
At the end, both Oshiki and Bosier asked participants to reflect on what they can do to create a more equitable environment.
"I want you to do one kind thing today," Bosier asked.