By Amy Guckeen Tolson, Staff Writer Redstone RocketAugust 31, 2011
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala.--While women's voices were speaking up in determination to be heard in the 1960s, Mary Wilson's was carrying a tune above them all.
"We dared to dream at a time when it really was an impossible dream to make our dreams come true," said Wilson, an original member of the popular recording group The Supremes.
For the 67-year-old "dreamgirl," she has spent the past five decades traveling the world and watching her wildest dreams come true. And for many members of Team Redstone, for an hour and half Thursday, their own dreams came true as they listened to the inspiring words and legendary voice of a woman they themselves have looked up to since the 1960s. Wilson stopped at the Arsenal in the name of Women's Equality Day, Aug. 26, to celebrate the great strides that have been made in women's rights.
"To be three little black girls having achieved what we achieved in the '60s was quite an accomplishment," she said.
Wilson and fellow Supremes members Diana Ross and Florence Ballard were just 16 when they signed their first recording contract, rocketing them out of the Detroit projects and into stardom in the 1960s. Their first number one single, "Where Did Our Love Go," hit the top of the U.S. charts in 1964, the same year of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed discrimination against African Americans and women.
"We became divas and citizens all in that year," Wilson said.
The Supremes set the standard for success, forging the way for women as their musical talent gave way to 12 number one hits such as "Baby Love," "Come See About Me" and "Stop! In the Name of Love." When the group disbanded, Wilson continued to make a name for herself, performing on stage and screen, writing a bestselling autobiography, and touring the world, embracing the fans that have come to love her, and have made great strides toward women's equality themselves. In 2010, 35 percent of the Department of Defense civilian work force was women, many of whom were in the audience Thursday, cheering on one of their idols.
"In all our travels we noticed there were no women that were CEOs or in the Army or Air Force," Wilson said of the original Supremes' travels across the globe in their heyday in the 1960s. "It's amazing for me to see how far women have come. Thank you very much ladies for moving on up."
After providing the backup vocals and a few dance moves to Wilson's rousing performance of "Stop! In the Name of Love," AMCOM deputy commander Ronnie Chronister presented Wilson with a token of appreciation for her appearance at the packed Bob Jones Auditorium.
"Every time you look at this, I hope it reminds you how you've helped this work force do a better job of supporting Soldiers so they can come home and be with their families," Chronister said.