News: JBER observes Women’s Equality Day
Story by Staff Sgt. Jason Epperson
JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska - Soldiers, airmen and civilians on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson gathered at the base’s Education Center Aug. 26 to recognize Women’s Equality Day.
Each year Aug. 26 is designated in the United States as Women's Equality Day. Established in 1971, the date commemorates the passage of the 19th Amendment which gave U.S. women full voting rights in 1920.
After an invocation from Lt. Col. Kenneth Sorenson, chaplain, Sgt. Eric Reason of the 59th Signal Battalion led the crowd in singing the national anthem.
Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Angela Valentine performed a poem from Sojourner Truth's most famous speech “Ain’t I a Woman?”
“And ain't I a woman?” Valentine cried. “Look at me! Look at my arm! I have plowed and planted and gathered into barns and no man could head me. . . And ain't I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man - when I could get to it - and bear the lash as well and ain't I a woman?”
Anchorage city manager, George Vakalis, delivered a proclamation on behalf of the city’s mayor Dan Sullivan.
The guest speaker for the event was Barbara Jones, who’s been practicing law in Anchorage since 1994. Jones was also recently appointed Anchorage municipal ombudsman in May 2001. The ombudsman’s office is an independent, impartial municipal office responsible to the Anchorage Assembly that is empowered to investigate the acts of municipal agencies and the school district to safeguard the rights of citizens and promote efficient municipal services.
"These stories that we've heard today about the 72-year struggle for the passage of the 19th amendment are one of those things I really enjoy about the law," Jones said. "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex. That's pretty simple,” Jones said. “After the passage of the 19th amendment, women voted at a lower percentage rate than men. It did not catch up to men in percentage voting rates until 1980. In 1980 and ever since, women have voted at a higher rate than men."
Col. Gary Agron, the USARAK chief of staff, presented Jones with a plaque and delivered closing remarks.
"We honor women for their military and civil service, for their strength, their honor and pride," Agron said. "We honor the women for their sacrifice while for fighting for our freedom and their right to be an equal part of our nation and our Army. We know there is strength in diversity. In celebrating Women's Equality Day we not only emphasis women's significant contribution and also the value the Army places on diversity."
The observance is to remind and educate the history of women's struggles, according to Sgt. First Class William Davis, the 3rd Maneuver Enhancement Brigade Equal Opportunity adviser.
"We try to educate all the soldiers on where our women in the Army came from, because back in the 1920s women were not in the Army,” Davis said. “They were not able to vote. Now they are and a lot of individuals don’t know the struggles women went through to get to where they are.”