By Ryo Isobe, FLEACT Yokosuka Public Affairs
YOKOSUKA, Japan (March 17, 2017) – Ship Repair Facility and Japan Regional Maintenance Center (SRF-JRMC) held a Women’s History Month observance ceremony with two distinguished speakers, Commanding Officers Capt. Rosemary C. Malone, U.S. Naval Hospital Yokosuka (USNH-Y), and Cmdr. Erin Acosta, Naval Oceanography Antisubmarine Warfare Center Yokosuka.
The guest speakers addressed SRF-JRMC Sailors, U.S. civil service and contractors, and Japanese employees who gathered at the command’s quarterdeck to celebrate the Navy’s women and their accomplishments in American society.
“I would like to briefly start with how our great Navy supported me on my journey to become the first female commanding officer of [USNH-Y],” Malone said, touching on how her academic career in chemistry and math took her to recruitment and commissioning as an ensign.
She then began to teach chemistry, radiological fundamentals and materials science at the Naval Nuclear Power School in Orlando, Fla., and it was the Navy’s scholarship program that allowed her to get her Doctor of Medicine degree.
“Honoring trailblazing women in labor and business” was the theme of Women’s History Month 2017, and the captain cited many female predecessors in naval medicine.
“Throughout my career, the Navy has provided me with these types of female mentors and leaders who all contributed to my being selected for command,” Malone said.
Among these, she particularly elaborated on two women whom she had spoken as having successfully challenged legal and social structures, which had kept women’s labor underappreciated and underpaid.
Born in 1928, a former airline stewardess, Barbara “Dusty” Roads, fought gender and age discrimination and paved the way for women’s equal opportunities in the airline industry from the 1960s through the 1970s.
Having grown up in Jacksonville, Ala., Lilly Ledbetter was a women’s rights and civil rights activist who got her “dream job” as a manager at the local tire factory in 1979. During her 10-plus years of employment, she found out she was significantly underpaid compared to men and brought her case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Lastly, Malone emphasized that the Navy has no room for “toxic” or degrading behavior towards women.
“I would like to live in a world where these women and their achievements are not recognized as exceptions but, in fact, are the new normal,” Malone said, in conclusion.
The next speaker, Acosta, introduced her speech with a story of “Yeomanette” Loretta Walsh, the first female Navy enlistee who served in a non-nursing capacity with yeoman duties. Walsh also went down in naval history as the first female chief petty officer.
In her speech, Acosta referred to numerous efforts and contributions made by women. During World War II, Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Services (WAVES) ― the women’s branch of the Navy reserve ― was established and accepted women both as commissioned officers and enlisted, in order to free male service members for sea duty.
Mildred H. McAfee was the first female commissioned officer as a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Naval reserves. She became the first director of WAVES and eventually assumed the rank of captain. She played an important role in making decisions on how women in WAVES should be treated comparably to men.
The 1948 Women’s Armed Services Integration Act allowed women to serve as regular service members in the armed forces, including the Navy.
“Even in my short career, I’ve witnessed the first female destroyer [commanding officer], cruiser [commanding officer], carrier strike group commander and Navy four-star, just to name a few,” Acosta said. “They deliver impeccable service with ‘people’ at the heart of everything.
“We, women, are laborers, we are business leaders, and we are innovators. We are ordinary women doing extraordinary things.”
The speeches were followed by a cake-cutting by Malone, Acosta and the SRF-JRMC commanding officer, Capt. Garrett Farman. The attendees enjoyed a lunch potluck as they recognized women’s efforts.
The origin of Women’s History Month traces back to the earliest observance of Women’s Day, Feb. 28, 1909, when female workers in New York protested against their working conditions. Since then, the week of March 8 came to be recognized and observed as Women’s History Week. Women’s History Month, as it is known today, officially took form in 1987, when U.S. Congress declared March as Women’s History Month. Today, it is celebrated not only in the Navy or the U.S., but also worldwide.