Story by Marcy Sanchez on 09/03/2019LANDSTUHL, Germany -- Almost a century has passed since the ratification of the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote. To recognize the impact women's suffrage has had on our society and military, Landstuhl Regional Medical Center held a Women's Equality Day observance, Aug. 26.
In 1917, suffragists picketed outside of the White House and were arrested for disrupting traffic. In 1918, President Woodrow Wilson, who had previously ignored the suffragists, publicly endorsed a woman's right to vote. It is believed that women's roles during World War I helped Wilson see the need for suffrage. However, it would take another year before there were enough votes in Congress to support the passage of the 19th Amendment.
"This month serves as a reminder of how far women have come in the fight for equal rights but also serves as an opportunity to acknowledge the many barriers that still exist today," said Sgt. Maj. Tres Bien B. Adams, sergeant major, Dental Health Command Europe.
In the Army, women have served since 1775 in traditional roles such as nurses, seamstresses and cooks for troops, with some women even serving as spies and others disguising themselves as men to serve on the front lines. Today, all military occupations and positions are open to women and now serve in every Military Occupational Specialties (MOS) from driving tanks, firing mortars to leading infantry soldiers into combat.
Adams' experiences reflect the changing environment in the U.S. as she searched for adversity in her own life to discuss during the observance.
"I went through all my memories and everything I can remember, and I just couldn't find a story, I was a little disappointed. Then I realized, stories aren't always about adversity. My story is a story of success," said Adams.
While military pay scales are performance based, many women throughout the world still feel underrepresented.
"I've always had support from my family. I was fortunate enough to grow up with not only my parents, but a team in my household who supported me, coaches who pushed me, mentors who saw something in me and put into me the spirit of accomplishment," shared Adams. "Unfortunately, that's not the story for every woman or girl in the world today. The reality is that not too long ago women lived under very different and much more limiting laws and social norms. And even today, with the support of a village, they may not be able to achieve their dreams because they are not allowed to."
"Women payed a tremendous cost to demonstrate and show the importance of the right to vote," said Col. Michael Weber, commander, LRMC. "We should all support the women in our lives, do everything we can to be accountability partners, ensure they vote and have their voices heard."
Women make up 17.6 percent of the U.S. Army, the largest percentage of women serving since the inception of the all-volunteer force. Even as recently as this year, women are still breaking through glass ceilings as Maj. Gen. Laura Yeager took command of the U.S. Army National Guard's 40th Infantry Division, the first woman to lead an Army infantry division.
"I'm a recipient, women today are recipients, of the bravery and selflessness of women who dreamed of a world where women could be judged solely on their capabilities and not on their gender," said Adams. "And yet, there's still so much work that needs to be done. Even in America for all the wins we have achieved in the realm of gender equality, we still have roadblocks that we must tackle before truly saying we have achieved true equality."
In celebrating Women's Equality Day, the Army recognizes not only the significance of women's contributions but also the value of diversity and an inclusive environment.
"The achievements of the past, serve as a roadmap for the future. It shows us that (true equality) can be done," concluded Adams.