For Immediate Release:
April 4, 2012
Freeholder Burry speaks about women’s history
She is honored by Naval Weapons Station Earle
COLTS NECK, NJ – Freeholder Lillian G. Burry was honored by Naval Weapons Station Earle during a Women’s History Month celebration held at the base last week.
Women’s History Month honors the contributions of women throughout history. It had its origins as a national celebration in 1981 when Congress passed a law authorizing Women’s History Week. In 1987 it was expanded to include the entire month.
This year’s theme, “Women’s Education – Women’s Empowerment,” focuses on women’s struggle for equal access to education. Federal law enacted in 1977 prohibits gender discrimination by federally funded institutions and has become the primary tool for women’s fuller participation in education.
It transformed the educational landscape of the United States within the span of a generation. Today, women outnumber men in American colleges nationwide.
“Before 1970 the field of women’s history did not exist,” Freeholder Lillian G. Burry said. “It was probably assumed that women didn’t have a history worth knowing. There was no formal doctoral training in the subject available anywhere in the country. Since then, almost every college offers women’s history courses, and major graduate programs offer doctoral degrees in the field.”
In 1848 a women’s rights convention was held in Seneca Falls, N.Y. At that event, 68 women along with 32 men set the agenda for the women’s rights movement with the adoption of 12 regulations calling for equal treatment under the law.
This era produced strong, vibrant women, such as Margaret Sanger, who in 1916 opened the first birth control clinic in the Unites States, and Alice Paul and Lucy Burns, who used civil disobedience to gain passage of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote.
In the mid 20th century, history meant political history. But by the 1970s a new social history began shifting emphasis to a broader spectrum of American life, including the history of urban life, public health, ethnicity, the media and poverty.
“We need to recognize the American Woman who courageously stood on the front lines, risking ridicule and imprisonment to confront the acceptance of gender inequality,” Burry said in her speech inside the base chapel. “These women revised society.”
• Deborah Sampson and Rachel and Grace Martin, disguised as men, fought the British in the American Revolution, along with Mary Hagidorn, Margaret Corbin, Anna Wagner. Mary Ludwig Hays, known as Molly Pitcher, took her wounded husband’s place at a cannon during the Battle of Monmouth.
• In 1855, Mary E. Walker became the first female physician in the country, volunteering during the Civil War. She is the only woman in U.S. history to receive the Medal of Honor.
“Even though women have officially served in the military since 1901, it wasn’t until 1970 that a woman obtained the rank of general or admiral,” Burry said, “Today, more than 50 women wear the stars of an admiral or general.”
Beginning in 1970, a number of substantial changes took place in the U.S. Armed Forces:
• The first women in the history of the Armed Forces, the chief of the Navy Nurse Corps and the Women’s Army Corps Director, are promoted to brigadier general.
• The first Air Force woman is promoted to brigadier general.
• The Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) is opened to Army and Navy women.
• The Navy promotes the first woman to rear admiral, Director of the Navy Nurse Corps.
• An Army woman becomes the first woman military helicopter pilot.
• Women are admitted to the service academies.
• The first Coast Guard women are assigned to sea duty as crew members aboard the Morganthau and Gallatin.
• The Coast Guard opens all assignments to women.
• The Marine Corps promotes its first woman to brigadier general.
• An Army Nurse Corps officer becomes the first African-American woman brigadier general in the history of the Armed Forces.
• The first woman to command a military vessel assumes command of the Coast Guard Cutter Cape Newagen.
• The first Naval aviator obtains carrier qualification.
• The first women graduate from the service academies.
• NASA selects its first Navy woman as an astronaut.
1990-91 Persian Gulf War
• The first Navy woman assumes command of a ship.
• The first women are assigned to Navy combatant ships.
• An Air Force lieutenant colonel becomes the first woman space shuttle pilot.
• Ten active duty, reserve and retired servicewomen are among the casualties of the tragic attacks on Sept. 11. Servicewomen are activated and deployed in support of the war on terrorism.
• The first woman since WWII is awarded the Silver Star for combat action, and is one of 14 women in U.S. history to receive the medal (but first for direct combat actions).
• The first woman in U.S. Air Force history joins the prestigious “Thunderbirds” air squadron.
• For the first time, a woman is promoted to the rank of four-star general in the U.S. Army.
• The ban on women serving in submarines is lifted.
• The commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy is a woman.
“Women are making progress in other areas, too,” Burry said. “In the New Jersey Legislature, 11 senators, 24 representatives and the lieutenant governor are women. On the federal level, there are 75 congresswomen and 17 senators.
“On our five-member freeholder board, two are women; county administrator is a woman, as are the county clerk and the county surrogate,” added Burry, who in 2008 served as the first woman director of the Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders.
“As we gather to celebrate Women’s History Month we pay homage to all of the valiant women who came before us, and we hold the torch high for all of those who will follow,” Burry said. “Let us dedicate this month to our mothers, our sisters, our daughters and our granddaughters as American women move forward to face the ever widening challenges of the future.”
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