By Anemone Rueger (USAG Wiesbaden)August 29, 2012
WIESBADEN, Germany - Wiesbaden community members watched with fascination as volunteers brought a taste of the struggle for women's rights through songs and skits, poems and passionate speeches.
Women's Equality Day was celebrated Aug. 24 at the Tony Bass Center on Clay Kaserne.
The celebration started at the door, where the female guests were greeted with a flower.
"In 1872 Susan B. Anthony was arrested, tried and fined $100 for casting her vote in the presidential elections," said guest speaker Dr. Charmaine Stradford, reminding the audience of the sacrifices made by women's rights movement leaders for opportunities taken for granted today. Her words were reinforced by a group of re-enactors carrying posters and loudly demanding "Women's rights today," and a group of elegantly dressed ladies gathered around a convention table and heatedly discussed the challenges and progress in the fight to be recognized as equal members in the male-dominated society of the 19th and early 20th centuries.
Stradford, a retired teacher and counselor with 35 years of service from Lancaster County, S.C., praised the "courage, conviction and commitment" of the early believers in women's equality.
"It is from these role models that we draw our inspiration to fight injustice against women today," she said, pointing out that some 6 million women entered paid employment in traditional "men's jobs" when their talent and strength were demanded during World War II. "A lot of good things started for women with the 19th Amendment of 1920 securing women's right to vote. Since 1971, Aug. 26 has been proclaimed Women's Equality Day by every president. Today, we honor the women serving our country in Congress, in the military, in so many fields in society. But we haven't achieved all yet," Stradford said.
Stradford concluded with a quote from American author Robert Fulghum summarizing the influence female leaders had on his life early on: "All I really needed to know about how to live and what to do and how to be, I learned in kindergarten. … Share everything. Play Fair. Don't hit people. … And no matter how old you are -- when you go out into the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together."
Col. David Carstens, U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden commander, thanked the volunteers and the 66th Military Intelligence Brigade, "our largest unit here," for taking the lead in the celebration.
"Looking around here and seeing the female Soldiers and leaders, I am reminded of how far we have come. But I am also reminded of how far we have to go," Carstens said. "I often get paperwork on issues involving military 'dependents' on my desk. Looking at my Army wife and the enormous responsibility she has, I can tell you there is not much of 'dependent' there. We still have ways to go in how we recognize women."
Sgt. 1st Class Kelli Shaw of the 102nd Signal Battalion said she appreciated the ceremony saying, "This reminds you of the times when women were excluded from so many rights -- when we were in the back of the bus."
Sgt. 1st Class Lashann Stradford, 66 MI's equal opportunity adviser, the event's organizer and daughter of the guest speaker, said, "We women continue to fight. I see these ladies we celebrated today as pioneers. They were the forerunners. It is now up to us to continue."
It was obvious the hard work of the volunteers and organizer paid off as guests lingered to share personal reflections on the contributions and messages of hope and worth, such as the expressive performance by the Wiesbaden Spiritual Dancers.