WOMEN SPECIAL REPORT
first woman and Latino to be named
; An evening bag and pair of
U.S. surgeon general, “many of our
inductees have overcome adver-
sity that we can’t even imagine and
have gone on to do things that have
changed our world.”
Moulton reports that visitors
are often moved by the personal
artifacts on display such as:
shoes worn by Amelia Earhart.
“She did have a personal and family
life,” she says.
; A flight suit worn by Lt. Colonel
Eileen Collins, the first woman to
command the Space Shuttle.
; A scarf originally belonging to
Earhart, which Sally Ride subsequently brought on a space mission.
; A bonnet worn by Stanton.
; Original copies of early wom-
en’s-rights newspapers, such as
“The Revolution” and “The Lily.”
As for legislative achievements,
says Moulton, people are surprised
to learn that the Equal Rights
Amendment legislation, which has
yet to pass, was originally proposed
more than 85 years ago. “That, too,
was introduced right here in Seneca
Falls by Alice Paul on the steps of
the Presbyterian Church,” she says.
Thanks in part to a $2.5-mil-
lion grant from the state of New
York, the Hall of Fame is planning to expand its exhibit space
four-fold when it moves to an 1844
limestone knitting mill. “Two of
the earliest owners of the building were among the 32 men who
signed the Declaration of Rights
and Sentiments,” explains Moulton.
(Frederick Douglass, who attended
the Seneca Falls Convention and
helped pass the Declaration’s resolutions, described this document
as the “grand basis for attaining the
civil, social, political and religious
rights of women.”)
What does Moulton hope visitors
take away from the experience? “I’d
like them to leave saying, ‘I can do
anything that I want to do,’” she says.
“What about us? Why weren’t we recognized?” asked women World War II vets,
referring to the 400,000 women who
risked their lives during that war. So after
conducting research in the mid-1980s, it
was discovered that “memorials were all
oriented toward men who served,” explains U.S. Air Force Ret. Brigadier
General Wilma L. Vaught.
That sparked the idea for the creation of the Women In Military Service
For America Memorial, located at the gateway of Arlington National
Cemetery and honoring the unsung heroines from all armed forces who
have ever served in the nation’s defense. During the museum’s dedication
in 1997, Merck & Co. (No. 13 in the 2010 DiversityInc Top 50) provided
financial support, while AT&T set up an exhibit featuring the “hello girls,”
World War I women switchboard operators who spoke French.
Today, the living memorial and 33,000-square-foot education center
receives about 200,000 visitors annually. Highlights include:
; The Hall of Honor, a majestic room lined with the sister blocks of
marble used for the Tomb of the Unknowns. Trimmed with flags, the
space provides recognition to women who died in service, were prisoners
of war or were recipients of our nation’s highest awards for bravery.
; A series of exhibits chronicling women in service from the American
Revolution to the Iraq/Afghanistan conflict.
; Computer kiosks where visitors can call up documents on 240,000
registered servicewomen dating back to the American Revolution.
; A journal where visitors can add comments about their experience.
“I read them all,” says Vaught, who is the foundation’s president. “Very
frequently, school children will indicate that they never realized how
much women had done during war.”
; The Office of History & Collections, housing an extensive library
of books by and about military women, photo and document archives,
memoirs and oral histories. Unfortunately, “the first book on the history of
women in the military … didn’t come out until the 1970s,” notes Vaught.
One of the most memorable exhibits, she says, was Faces of the Fallen,
1,300 portraits of the first women and men service members who were
killed in the Iraq conflict. On display for three years, “it pulled in about
650,000 people … many servicewomen,” says Vaught. “Family members
and friends would ... look up people they knew [and] leave notes to them …
ribbons … coins … pictures as mementos of their visit. It was incredible.”
This strikes the heart of the memorial’s mission, says Vaught, “to recog-
nize the real sacrifice women in the military have made.”