FORT HAMILTON, N.Y. – The contributions and accomplishments of women from New York were celebrated during Fort Hamilton's Women’s History Month observance at the post theater, Mar. 12.
Fort Hamilton’s mission partner, New York Military Entrance Processing Station, hosted the event, which tied in a walk through history, featuring military and civilian members donning attire from the era as they sang and read speeches and testimonials of significant women. New York State Assembly member Mathylde Frontus, who represents region 46, was the guest speaker.
“It’s incredibly important to take the time to celebrate the struggles, achievements, and important contributions of women to our nation, both historically and in today’s society,” said U.S. Army Col. Craig Martin, Fort Hamilton Garrison Commander. “We honor the hard work of the women who paved the way for today’s Soldiers, and we honor today’s Soldiers for securing our future.”
The theme for 2021 is “Valiant Women of the Vote: Refusing to be Silenced.” Army 1st Sgt. Suzette Barrett, NYMEPS first sergeant, started the event by sharing the observance’s importance.
“This theme honors the brave women who fought to win suffrage rights for women and for the women who continue to fight for the voting rights of others,” said Barrett. “Women have played vital roles in our Army since the Revolutionary War. Today women are Soldiers, Army Civilians, Veterans and family members who are critical members of our Army team. Women make our Army stronger.”
Air Force Maj. Pamela Nuila, NYMEPS executive officer, narrated the walk through history:
• Army Sgt. Jenny Zayas performed Billie Holiday’s song “God Bless the Child. Holliday is a world renowned jazz artist who used her voice to challenge racial barriers and prompt better opportunities for women.
• Marine Corps Sgt. Maricelis Feliz read a biographical narrative of Bea Arthur, a Marine who went on to be an actor, advocate for human rights and LGBT matters.
• Zakkiyyah Kears read speech “Ain’t I a Woman” by Sojourner Truth, an activist and abolitionist.
• Ellen Greeley, NYC Officer of Veterans Services, read a biographical narrative of Shirley Chisholm, the first African American woman elected to Congress.
• Army Sgt. Jenny Zayas performed Lena Horne’s song “Believe in yourself”. Horne was a performing artist who fought discrimination and for human rights.
Army Lt. Col. Ariel Pol, NYMEPS commander, introduced Frontus, noting her significant accomplishments. Frontus spoke of the status of women through time, covering rights and personal freedoms impacted based on race and marital status.
“Unbeknownst to many people today … New York state, and specifically NYC, have long been the center of where women began to organize and express the discontent with the status quo,” said Frontus. "New York is where the first organized fight for women’s rights officially began.”
In 1837, NYC was home to the first Anti-Slavery Convention of American Women. There were 175 women from 10 states who gathered to discuss their role in the abolition movement. This was the first time women representing broad geographic area met for a common purpose, the anti-slavery cause among women. Additionally, the suffrage movement began when a group of women met for tea in Waterloo, N.Y., to discuss the need for an organized campaign for women’s rights. They later organized 300 people for a two-day historic event that officially launched the suffrage movement; a national campaign for women’s equality.
“We owe a debt of gratitude to an array of courageous women who helped shape our city and helped make women’s rights possible,” continued Frontus. “There were so many women; women who were activists, social workers, performing artists, educators, politicians, and so much more.”
Frontus highlighted those who paved the way for others, specifically related to suffrage and racial integrations.
She said, “NYC has a long and distinguished roster of women from all backgrounds and economic status who worked together to leave this city a better place, and to them we owe a many thanks.”
In closing, Frontus stated that despite the success, there is still work to be accomplished; women have not achieved full equality under law.