Celebrating the accomplishments of women

Karen S. Spangler

Managing Editor

When you think about the many women who have made contributions to the history of the military, our country and our world, where do you even begin?

Reflecting back on the presidential campaign of 2008, Hillary Clinton shattered the glass ceiling when she ran a strong campaign in her bid for the Democratic nod for the presidency. Although Clinton was defeated, she holds one of the most powerful positions in the country today as the secretary of state.

However, she was not the first woman to aspire to the high offices of the presidency/vice-presidency. In 1984, presidential candidate Walter Mondale selected Geraldine Ferraro as his running mate. The MondaleFerraro ticket was defeated by incumbent President Ronald Reagan and Vice President George H.W. Bush.

But did you know that back in 1870, Victoria Woodhull became the first woman to run for the presidency? Rather a controversial figure for her time, Victoria lost the election which she ran against Grover Cleveland and incumbent President Benjamin Harrison.

Where would women be today without the determination and efforts of Susan B. Anthony, the Napoleon of the women’s suffrage movement? Without Clara Barton, would there be a Red Cross? And where would the Girl Scouts be without Juliette Low?

Through the decades, women have marched across the pages of history, making contributions in politics, the arts, education and medicine that have changed the world in which we live.

Many of their accomplishments have occurred thousands of feet above the earth. Amelia Earhart was a pioneer for women and aviation, noted for her solo flights. Amelia and her co-pilot, Fred Noonan, disappeared on a flight from New Guinea to Howland Island in the Pacific in July 1937.

Lt. Barbara Allen Rainey earned her wings and became the first female U.S. naval aviator in 1974.

Capt. Sunita Williams, a naval aviator and NASA astronaut, conquered space in 2007 when she set the record for the longest uninterrupted space flight by a female astronaut.

During World War II, a group of young women became pioneers in the aviation industry by forming what was known as the Women Airforce Service Pilots or WASPs.

Those women are now looked upon by many people as heroes and role models because they were the first women in history trained to fly American military aircraft. Because of the WASP services, several thousand of their male counterparts were freed for combat operations.

Maj. Gen. Jeanne Holm, at one time director of the Women in the Air Force (WAF), was the first female one-star general in the Air Force and the first two-star female general in the armed forces. She was promoted to brigadier general July 16, 1971, the first female Airman to be appointed in this grade. She was promoted to the grade of major general effective June 1, 1973, with date of rank July 1, 1970 – the first woman in the armed forces to serve in that grade.

Betty Gillies was the first woman pilot to qualify for the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron and Sgt. Vanessa Sheffield became a C-130 Hercules maintainer back in the ’70s when there weren’t many women in the maintenance career field.

Capt. Joy Bright Hancock, a veteran of two world wars and director of the Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES) from 1946 to 1953, played a significant role in the passage of the Women’s Armed Service Integration Act.

Cmdr. Elizabeth Barrett became the first female line officer to hold command in a combat zone in 1972 when she became commanding officer of the Naval Advisory Group in Saigon. Lt. Cmdr. Darlene Iskra became the first women to command a Navy ship in 1990 and in 1998, Cmdr. Maureen A. Farren became the Navy’s first female combatant ship commander.

Ships have been named after notable women in history and for esteemed Navy women. The first warship named for a woman by the USN and the first USN ship so named to take part in combat operations was USS Higbee (DD 806) in 1945, named for Lenah S. Higbee, superintendent of the Navy Nurse Corps during 1911-1922.

The guided missile destroyer, USS Hopper (DDG 70) “Amazing Grace” was commissioned on Jan. 6, 1996 at Bath Ironworks in Bath, Maine. Hopper, home-ported at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii was named after Rear Adm.

Grace Murray Hopper who was one of the pioneering spirits in the field of computer technology, and led the Navy into the computer age. This is only the first time since World War II and the second time in the Navy’s history that a warship has been named for a woman from the Navy’s own ranks.

Women were first assigned to some non-combatant ships in 1978 and in 1994, their service was expanded to include combatant ships. In 2010, the Navy announced a policy change that would allow women to serve on submarines.

The accomplishments of women throughout history have opened doors, broken barriers and ushered in opportunities for not only women, but everyone.

We celebrate the contributions they have made and are thankful for them.

And we know that the women of today and the future will continue to shatter those glass ceilings and make the world a better place.

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Category: Window on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam