They donned commemorative T-shirts, listened to an impassioned speech, laughed, smiled and stood proudly.
That was the scene Friday when a crowd of more than 400 showed up at the U.S. Army Women’s Museum for a two-mile walk/run event commemorating Women’s Equality Day.
The event, sponsored by the Installation Equal Opportunity Office, recognized the adoption of the 19th Amendment of the Constitution. That amendment guaranteed women the right to vote.
Friday’s event was the third such event held at Fort Lee. Col. Gwen Bingham, the garrison commander, said it continues to grow.
“We had twice as many folks turn out today as we did last year,” said the installation’s first female commander. “And they had a good sense of goodwill and community spirit. It was fantastic.”
The crowd was filled with both old and young women, military members, family members and visitors from the surrounding community.
They stood and waited for the guest speaker in a parking lot decorated with banners, balloons and several easels with the photographs of women recognized on both the local and national levels.
The person in one of those photographs was guest speaker Sgt. Maj. Mary Brown.
The top enlisted Soldier at the Aerial Delivery and Field Services Department, Brown is the first female sergeant major in the male-dominated rigger career field.
She said in her speech it is important to honor the women who not only were pivotal in the creation of the amendment but who had a wide-ranging impact on women’s achievement.
“Thanks to women of extraordinary courage and conviction who waged for years a determined campaign for women’s suffrage, the 19th amendment was ratified in August, 1920,” she stated.
“It opened the doors for generations of American women to add their vision and voices to our national growth.”
Brown also said that America has benefited and will continue to benefit from a society in which women are free to achieve.
“The 19th Amendment has allowed American girls and women to make the most of their abilities, dream big dreams, and more importantly, achieve those dreams. Because of this, our nation has reaped the rewards of women’s talent, accomplishment, wisdom and perspective in every activity and profession, in the home and outside, as astronauts, professional athletes, teachers, university presidents, military leaders, firefighters, care givers, cabinet members, Supreme Court justices, speaker of the house and presidential candidates. Women have made lasting contributions to the quality of our lives and the strength of our democracy.”
After the speech, the crowd made its way down Shop Road and back to the parking lot.
The Women’s Museum offered tours of its facility after the event.
Since it was first celebrated in 1971, Women’s Equality Day has evolved to become more than an occasion to celebrate the right vote but a time to celebrate women’s achievement as well.