August 26 is celebrated as Women's Equality Day and this year marks the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment. In honor of this event, William Beaumont Army Medical Center hosted a virtual observance in the Chapel on August 19, 2020. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, it was broadcast on social media.
The theme of the observance was "Chipping Away at Inequality” and Staff Sgt. Ashley Jackson opened the ceremony by singing the National Anthem. Sgt.1st Class Debbra Douglas, the Equal Opportunity Advisor for WBAMC, and her staff, organized the event, which included poetry readings and guest speakers.
Brig Gen.Wendy Harter, commanding general, Regional Health Command-Central, based out of Fort Sam Houston, TX, delivered the opening remarks, addressing the women's suffrage movement and voting rights.
Harter added passages from Jane Goodall, who said, "What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make."
“I encourage all of you, man or woman, to continue to strive for positive changes and equality across all facets of our lives,” said Harter.
The event guest speaker was Dr. Guillermina Nunez-Mchiri, director of Woman and Gender Studies at the University of Texas at El Paso. Nunez-Mchiri delivered a persuasive speech about women's suffrage and the injustices women have faced throughout history.
“That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain't I a woman?” This quote is from Sojourner Truth speaking at a Women's Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio in 1851. Sgt. Jasmin Fabre from the WBAMC Pulmonary Service, recited Truth’s words in a personal poem during the virtual observance.
"The U.S. Constitution was passed on September 17, 1787. If we do the math, it took us 133 years after the U.S. Constitution was signed for women to be able to vote, and that is not all women. Women had to navigate state laws and had to prove their age, citizenship, and mental competency. African American women and men experienced voter suppression and had to continue fighting against voting taxes, fear of lynching, and intimidation to get to the polls, "said Nunez-Mchiri."
“To celebrate Women's Equality Day with understanding, awareness, and courage to continue to be thankful for where we are and hopeful for where we strive to be,” said Fabre.
“You don't stop serving when you finish your service with the military. The opportunity to lead and serve will come in your everyday lives. You can look into civic engagement, service in our communities, and seek opportunities to lead, wherever you stand. Look to create partnerships, look for the allies, and for people to work with you. We must create the opportunities to be included, seen, heard, and validated within our families, within our communities, and within the institutions we serve in,” said Nunez-Mchiri, as she ended her speech.