PRESIDIO OF MONTEREY, Calif. -- The Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center and the Presidio of Monterey held an observance of Women's Equality Day Aug. 26. On the same date 99 years earlier, the 19th Amendment was certified as part of the Constitution. The amendment reads, 'The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.'
The ratification of the 19th Amendment was a major step in a changing America. At the time of the amendment's ratification in 1920, women served in temporary support roles for the military during war, but it wasn't until 1948 when the passage of the Women's Armed Services Integration Act granted women permanent status in the armed forces.
This year's Women's Equality Day observance celebrated women's roles in the military with an opening statement by President of the Naval Postgraduate School and retired Navy Vice Adm. Ann Rondeau. She spoke about her early career and how she fought to be seen as an equal while stationed at an air squadron in Hawaii.
"I had uniforms made that were slacks. The guys had no idea they were not authorized," admitted Rondeau about breaking uniform standards. "I did an inspection with an illegal uniform. The admiral came up and said 'Lt. Rondeau, you're looking very sharp today,' and I said yes sir!"
After her opening statement, Rondeau joined a panel also featuring Col. Stephanie Kelley, commander 517th Training Group; Master Chief Petty Officer Danica Dwyer, DLIFLC provost senior enlisted leader; Master Sgt. Ann Sagebiel, occupational field sponsor for Marine Corps linguists; and Dr. Mina Lee, Ph.D., Professor & Dean, Asian School II, DLIFLC. The panel fielded questions from an audience of women and men representing each service branch. Questions ranged from challenges each panelist had overcome and progress they'd seen over their careers, to the future of the armed forces with the integration of women on the front lines of battle.
Sagebiel addressed her personal history as a female Marine at DLIFLC, "When I was at DLI as a student, my platoon sergeant was embarrassed to have women in the Marine Corps and made me sit on the curb while the 'real Marines' went to PT."
The Marine Corps now showcases a noticeable change in comparison to Sagebiel's experience. This year's observance was organized by Staff Sgt. David Golob, the equal opportunity representative for the Marine Corps Detachment.
"The reason I think Women's Equality Day is so important," said Golob, "It recognizes the enfranchisement of half the population of our country. No other equal opportunity observance encapsulates 50 percent of the population, so this is applicable to everyone."
Less than 100 years after the federal government recognized a woman's right to vote, the five female panelists demonstrate the ongoing successes of the women's rights movement. Today, women play important roles in the military as a whole, and in shaping the education and proficiency of everyone stationed at POM and DLIFLC.
"If we are competent to the need, and the mission, and our skill set," said Rondeau, "We can make the team better, that's what is important."