Celebrating Women’s History month: Be a part of history

  • Published
  • By Col. Denise Kloeppel
  • 66th Air Base Wing Inspector General
Editor's note: The following article was excerpted from remarks delivered by Colonel Kloeppel during Hanscom's first Women's History Month event March 3. 

In March, we celebrate women's past and present and their significant contributions to society and this nation. This month's theme is "Women and Art."
Throughout the month, we have an opportunity to reflect on the achievements of highly skilled women in their craft: visionaries and artists in their own right.

Margaret Corbin from the Revolutionary War bravely took over her fallen husband's cannon in the Battle of Fort Washington in 1776. Mary Hays McCauly, known as "Molly Pitcher," became the second known woman to man a gun in a similar situation. Both women were recognized for their valor by General Washington.

In 1879, Belva Lockwood became the first woman to practice law before the U.S. Supreme Court and in 1932, Amelia Earhart became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic.

How could we have Women's History Month without acknowledging the Women Air Force Service Pilots? Although these pilots were seen as civilians and only recognized as military personnel in 1977, the WASPs flew more than 60 million miles before the program ended in December 1944 -- with only 38 lives lost out of 1,830 volunteers and 1,074 graduates. More recently, in 1981, Sandra Day O'Connor became the first female member of the Supreme Court.

Only 15 years ago, the combat exclusion law was repealed and the Defense Department opened up new positions for women in the military. Women were finally allowed to fly combat missions and serve aboard combat ships. This allowed Jackie Parker, in 1994, to become the first woman to qualify to fly an F-16 combat plane.

The last two years have been monumental years for women. On Jan. 4, 2007, Nancy Pelosi became the first female Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, and Senator Hillary Clinton began her bid as a candidate in the 2008 presidential election. These are great achievements and have most certainly paved a way for women in government service. However, although the road is paved, it is still not a super highway. 

Of 350,000 individuals wearing a military uniform today, only 67,000 are women, meaning the military workforce is still only 15 percent female. In 1999, Time Magazine noted the 100 top pioneers' of the 20th century, and only 20 of them were women.
So how can we make history? What made those women before us make history? I think they all had passion, like artists, for what that did, not the fact that they were first, just the fact that they loved what they did. They had the courage and the tenacity to make it happen and would not take "no" for an answer. They "just did." 

So this month, as we reflect on women's history and the accomplishment of those that preceded us, remember today is also history, so continue to make strides in the military and government -- ignite your passion, show your courage, achieve your vision, and not only read history, be a part of history.