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NEWS | Aug. 24, 2016

Ode to women of government: thank you

502nd Equal Opportunity

As I stepped out of the adobe building, the San Antonio heat hit me like a wall. A plane taxied down the runway only 500 yards from where I was walking, invisible waves rising from the top of the cockpit.
I felt a sweat begin to break on my forehead only a minute after I left the safety of the air conditioning. I had chosen today to wear pants instead of a light skirt, a decision I now regret. I walked a little faster to my car, slipped into the hot box and turned the key into the ignition. Time to go to work.

This scenario involved so many rights which were denied to American women in the past: pants, cars, careers. This span of 30 seconds became possible because hundreds of women took charge and chose to be the change. So who was it, exactly, that fought for my freedom to wear pants, vote and have a career?

As I sifted through articles about iconic actresses, I realized they did not contribute much in the way of women's equality. Women of the military and other government agencies have made the largest footprints in the battle for women's equality.

At Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, these historic and brave women of the military didn't model dresses. Women took to the workforce, donning the coveralls their husbands left behind. It was as if a swarm of worker bees descended on the hangars of Randolph.

The reservoir of women, known as "Kelly Katies," filled the workplace only to be pushed back into more domicile roles as the men returned from war. During the subsequent wars, these women gained respect by proving themselves and, eventually, retained their jobs after World War II had finished.

Take a journey with me into a couple of these impressive women's military accomplishments.

Elsa Martinez, a native to San Antonio, was the daughter of an Army sergeant. Due to her father's example, she chose to enlist as soon as she could. She was eligible and qualified enough to gain a top secret security clearance. After boot camp, the military entrusted her with secrets of national security. She worked with a dozen or so people, mostly males, developing pictures taken by aerial cameras for government usage.

Another inspirational military figure was Marjorie Stinson, who became the first female air pilot in the United States at the age of 19. She was based out of San Antonio and led the way for other female flyers. This brave young woman flew for the military as a stunt flyer and eventually became a teacher for the Royal Flying Canadian Corps.

Women in other areas of government also had an impressive impact on women's equality.

Lila Cockrell was elected and reelected as San Antonio's first female mayor, making her the first woman mayor of a metropolitan city in the United States. Cockrell worked on the City Council and was an active part of desegregation in San Antonio. Today, her leaps in women's and African American equality can be seen throughout the entire city.

The unsung heroes of women's equality displayed strength through adversity and proved their value in the workplace. These women took charge and chose to be the change they wished to see. These women are the reason I can drive my car, pursue my career and wear pants when I feel like it.

I just want to say thank you to all of the inspirational women who serve in the military and government agencies. Thank you for the examples you have shown which empower me to keep striving toward greatness. Each time I decide to wear pants to work or I receive a promotion, I will thank the women who struggled and paved the way.