PRESIDIO OF MONTEREY, Calif. - The Presidio of Monterey community observed Women's History Month during a program at the Tin Barn March 15.

"Women's Education--Women's Empowerment" was this year's theme, which honored women's contributions.

"We have a wonderful opportunity today, as every day in our service, to honor those who have come before us," said Air Force Lt. Col. Michels D. Pryor, 311th Training Squadron commander.

"Today, we honor women. It gives us a special opportunity to look at women pioneers and to be inspired by them," he said, adding that "those who have gone before us know they are standing with us today."

For the event, four service members spoke about women who have made a difference--two historical figures and two women currently serving in the Air Force.

Airman 1st Class Erin N. Owens spoke about Nellie Bly, considered the first female investigative journalist. Nellie Bly was the pen name of American pioneer female journalist Elizabeth Jane Cochran.

Airman Shawnee P. Toledo spoke about Air Force Lt. Col. Nicole Malachowski, who, as a major, was the first female pilot selected to fly as part of the U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron, better known as the Thunderbirds.

Airman 1st Class Susan E. Edwards spoke about Eleanor Roosevelt, who was the first lady of the United States from 1933 to 1945. After her husband's death in 1945, she continued to be an international author, speaker, politician and activist for the New Deal coalition. She worked to enhance the status of working women, although she opposed the Equal Rights Amendment because she believed it would adversely affect women.

Finally, Airman 1st class Vanessa M. Robledo spoke about Chief Master Sgt. Jennifer Bloomer, who was the first chief master sergeant Airborne Cryptologic Linguist. She also attended the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center in 1991.

Regarding education, accordingly to the National Women's History Project, women now outnumber men in American colleges nationwide; the reversal of the gender gap is a newer phenomenon. The fight to learn was a valiant struggle waged by many tenacious women--across years and across cultures--in the country, according to the project's website.

After the American Revolution, the notion of education as a safeguard for democracy created opportunities for girls to gain a basic education--based largely on the premise that, as mothers, they would nurture not only the bodies but also the minds of (male) citizens and leaders, the website says, adding that the concept that educating women meant educating mothers endured in America for many years, at all levels of education.

When Women's History Month was first celebrated in the early 1980s, the topic of women's history was mostly limited to college curricula, the website says.

The website also says it has been estimated that less than 3 percent of the content of teacher-training textbooks available at that time mentioned the contributions of women, according to the site, which also says that when they were mentioned, women's contributions were often relegated to mere footnotes. And, the contributions of women of color and women in fields such as mathematics, science and art were seldom discussed.

Celebrating Women's History Month, according to the project, is a step toward correcting the historical record and drawing attention to viable female role models.