JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. – Service members gathered to celebrate the 93rd anniversary of the passing of the 19th Amendment during a Women’s Equality Day observance Aug. 20.
Marilyn Strickland, mayor of Tacoma and guest speaker for the event, spoke to the crowd about equality and its progress in the U.S.
“The 93rd anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, which guarantees all women the right to vote, was celebrated on Sunday,” Strickland said. “Ever since that historic day, women have become an increasingly important and decisive voting block and our presence at the polls has been a significant factor in the outcomes of most recent presidential elections.”
Citing Harriet Tubman, Margaret Thatcher and Condoleezza Rice as examples of what women are capable of, Strickland encouraged Soldiers to follow in their footsteps by advancing the principals prior generations of women fought for.
Quoting Shirley Chisholm, the first African-American woman elected to congress, Strickland said, “You don’t make progress sitting on the sidelines whimpering and complaining, you make progress by implementing ideas. There are many ways to do that: by standing up, by speaking out, by being courageous and participating.”
Within the military, women continue to fill important leadership roles—two females have served as four-star generals—and the move toward gender equality across the services has taken steps forward in recent months.
Earlier this year, the military rescinded the 1994 Direct Ground Combat Definition and Assignment Rule that prevented women from serving in various combat-related jobs.
Some military occupations once closed off to women have already opened their doors. In April of this year, the first class of multiple launch rocket system crew members to integrate females made history when they graduated advanced individual training at Fort Sill, Ga.
For Capt. Leslie Haddock, an engineer officer and six-year Army veteran who deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan, changes like these demonstrate a move toward equality.
“Women’s equality is about being equal on every front, from being able to hold the same job positions, to not having double standards, to having the same pay, the same entitlements, the same rights,” said Haddock, a Morgan, Utah, native. “There is a progression forward and the military is making giant strides in the progress of equality.”
However, Haddock does feel that more must be done to combat gender discrimination.
Haddock is a graduate of the U.S. Army Sapper School, a premiere leadership school for engineers with predominately male graduates, yet current regulations prohibit females from serving in Sapper companies.
While there is still much to do before full equality is reached, Strickland encouraged women to take pride in what they have accomplished.
“In the fight for equality, there will always be more work to do, but we can also be very, very proud of the gains we have made,” Strickland said.
“In Washington state before the last election, we had a female governor, two U.S. senators and lots of women in positions of mayoral leadership, but the fight is never over,” Strickland said.
Leading up to her election, Strickland recalls one thing that stood out.
“People ask you a lot of questions when you run for political office like, ‘What are your qualifications? Are you competent? What do you hope to achieve?’” Strickland said. “But I recall getting one question a lot that I never heard people ask male candidates and they asked me, ‘Are you tough enough?’”
It’s questions like this that let Strickland know there is still work left to do in the fight for equality.
“We do this not just to honor the generation of women that came before us, but also to ensure that progress continues for our daughters and the young women who will come after us. When a society is more just for all, we all benefit, regardless of gender and background,” she said.