Women's equality in the U.S. has come a long way, as evidenced by the words of Master Sgt. Denise Felton and others at the Women's Equality Day Observance Aug. 21 at Riley's Conference Center.
Felton, food service operations sergeant, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, was the guest speaker at the event, hosted by the 1st Inf. Div. Equal Opportunity Office. The event's theme was "Celebrating Women's Right to Vote."
"It really is hard to imagine a time when women couldn't vote, couldn't be paid the same as men, were considered inferior and had to petition, march and suffer to attain equal footing in society," said Sgt. 1st Class Frank Desario, 1st ABCT equal opportunity adviser, in his opening remarks. "The observance of Women's Equality Day not only commemorates the passage 19th Amendment, but also calls attention to women's continuing efforts toward full equality."
After a performance from the 1st Inf. Div. Band, while attendees sampled sandwiches, salads and cookies provided by Riley's Conference Center, the guest speaker took the lectern. Felton began her presentation by singing part of the song "Sweet Music (One of These Days)" by Alicia Keys.
"It is a privilege and an honor to stand before you today in celebration, remembrance and to share the exceptional history of Women's Equality Day," Felton said. "Women's Equality Day, like all major events, has become a huge turning point in American history. This day marks the turning point in the history of the struggle for equal treatment of women and women's rights."
It was a true distinction of how the world has changed and evolved throughout the years, she said.
"The world has witnessed just what women are capable of achieving," she said. "Pioneers from the likes of Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Victoria Woodhull, Emily Perkins, Rosa Parks and Eleanor Roosevelt fighting for civil rights and equality to great scientists such as Marie Curie, Rosalind Franklin and Jane Goodall.
"The last century has shown, more than ever, what both men and women are capable of achieving when the opportunity is presented."
Felton said Women's Equality Day also calls attention to women's continuing efforts toward full equality.
"Courage is a tribute to women from all walks of life, no matter where they come from or what position or status they've held," Felton said. "These are women who have toiled the soil for most, if not all, their living years. These are women who have worked for hours, days, even years, often nonstop, pouring their sweat, sometimes their heart, into what they felt needed to be done.
"Some of these women got to see the fruits of their hard work, while others did not."
The food service operations sergeant said the crowd should celebrate the lives of the women who fought and continue to fight for women's equality through celebrating their own lives.
"Let's celebrate our own talents and unique qualities, and give ourselves the acknowledgement and the recognition due to us for our efforts and hard work, whether big or small," she said. "Let us honor and recognize the mothers, the sisters, the aunts and the grandmothers within ourselves and within each other, and remember that, like a burning candle that eliminates the dark, we need to honor and cherish our light that shines within ourselves and each other, for the light in the world around us is what we give."
Following her speech, five female Soldiers with the 1st ABCT gave a short presentation on the feelings and thoughts of the women of the world, past and present. Representing lawyers and CEOs, doctors and engineers, the quintet put the audience into the mind of several women and shared their experiences, along with inspirational and thought-provoking quotes.
Col. David Miller, chief of staff, 1st Inf. Div., presented Felton with a certificate of appreciation signed by Maj. Gen. Paul E. Funk II, commanding general, 1st Inf. Div. and Fort Riley, following the presentation.
"I really appreciate the great cross-section of Fort Riley and the division that are here today," Miller said. "It demonstrates our commitment to all that was talked about here today."