By Sgt. 1st Class Joel QuebecMarch 28, 2012
FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- Women hold up half the sky. This Chinese proverb was used to illustrate the importance of women in the history of the world and was used by Command Sgt. Maj. (Ret) Yolanda Lomax as she spoke at the 81st Regional Support Command during their Women's History Month activities on March 28. The theme for 2012 is "Women's Education, Women's Empowerment."
As with all special observances there is a great opportunity to celebrate and learn about notable historical events, achievements and accomplishments. "This year's theme," Lomax explained, "raises awareness of the essential and influential role women play in the development of our shared history. Most importantly it recognizes the essential role higher education has played in granting women political, economic and social agency in the biases, stereotypes and pseudo-science women faced to be educated equally with men."
It was not long ago that women were expected to take home economics instead of trade-related
classes and during physical education classes, square dancing was the norm as opposed to the sports that many women play professionally today. Although being a nurse or a teacher was common, becoming a principal or a university president was beyond their perceived capabilities.
All that changed, at least on paper, when Title IX became law on June 23, 1972 thereby requiring gender equity for every educational program that receives federal funding. Although many were slow to accept the idea, the fact that law required action quickly gave women the opportunities to prove themselves far more than worthy in both academics and sports.
Lomax herself was unaware of Title IX prior to seeing a story about a possible violation of it in her local newspaper, prompting her to do further research into its history. Equality did not come without a price. Lomax spoke of the valiant struggle waged by many tenacious women across years and cultures in the U.S. Because of such pioneers women have the very opportunities that were unavailable just 40 years ago well within recent memory.
"In recognizing the educational accomplishments and dreams achieved by women," Lomax said,
"both women and men can realize their own potential and face the challenges in their own lives."
Steele had served in Germany with Lomax when she was a garrison CSM. Referring to Lomax as well as all military women she said, "It's important for not just women but also for men to see such strong women in leadership positions."
"Education is the natural pathway to women's empowerment." Lomax said "If we are to define empowerment, we would know that it means getting the skills, the tools and attributes needed to pursue the career and lifestyle choices we currently have or will select in the future."
One of the historical features was Sgt. Neisha Boyd modeling a 1970s-era Women's Army Corps (WAC) uniform. "I felt honored to wear the WAC uniform from the 1970's." Boyd said. "The uniform was older than me but it was great to learn the history and listen to stories from the Soldiers before me. It amazed me how excited people were to see this uniform again, I am just thankful for the opportunity."
Many men vehemently opposed allowing women in the military fearing a devaluing of their own masculinity. Some warned sisters or female friends that if they joined they would be seen as prostitutes or lesbians. Others feared that if women took the safe jobs, that they would have to serve in combat.
Gen. Douglas MacArthur referred the WACs "my best soldiers." He said they worked harder, complained less and were better disciplined than men. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower said that "their contributions in efficiency, skill, spirit and determination are immeasurable." The 150,000+ women that served during World War II released the equivalent of 7 divisions of men for combat.
The Women's Armed Services Integration Act became law on June 12, 1948 thereby giving women permanent status in the military.
"It felt great to contribute to something that was bigger than me and potentially paved the way for not only me but women that will come after me," said Boyd.
Also included in the activity was a poetry reading by Ms. Tannie Jackson entitled "A Letter from God to Woman" by B.J. Morbitzer followed by Chaplain (Capt) Ken Hubbs and Ms. Steele who sang a song entitled "Eyes Wide Open." The chaplain wrote the song for his wife.