NWHM ADDRESSES OFFICE OF PERSONNEL MANAGEMENT
Two accomplished speakers from the National Women’s History Museum graced a Women’s History Month Special Observance Event at the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) on March 28. NWHM President Susan Jollie and Board Member Brigadier General Wilma Vaught (USAF, Ret.) were invited to address OPM employees about women in federal service, civilian and military, respectively.
Ms. Jollie’s remarks covered the history of women employed by the federal government in the United States. In the early to mid-19th century, civilian opportunities for women were generally limited to the occasional clerk or translator position, or to copying drawings for the U.S. Patent Office. Clara Barton and Dorothea Dix were among the many women who saw more government employment opportunities open up during the American Civil War.
These pioneers were followed in the 20th century by social reformer Julia Lathrop during the Taft Administration and Frances Perkins (the first female Cabinet member) during the Roosevelt Administration. During World War II, over one million “Government Girls” were recruited for federal work. Legislation in the 1960s and 1970s began to curtail discrimination based on sex, and greater political awareness led to the appointment and election of women at all levels and departments of the federal government.
General Vaught spoke about the history of women in the military from the American Revolution, when women had to dress as men to participate, right up to women’s involvement in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. When Vaught entered the service in 1957, women were not allowed to become admirals or generals, for fear that menopause might cause them to make irrational decisions (!). Needless to say, things have changed since then–slowly perhaps, but today women are acknowledged and valued members of all branches of the armed services. General Vaught encouraged the audience to learn more by visiting the Women in Military Service to America Memorial at Arlington Cemetery, of which she is President, and which is a member of NWHM’s National Coalition.
The program, hosted by OPM Chief of Staff Tricia Hollis, took place in the Conference Center of the OPM building in downtown Washington. Ms. Jollie and General Vaught were joined on the dais by SPC Antoinette Scott and Sgt. Leana Nishimura who spoke about their service in the United States Army. Approximately 75 people attended the event.