Tampa Celebrates Women's History Month

03/02/10 Mark Anderson
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This morning, Mayor Pam Iorio led a celebration commemorating March as Women’s History Month. Today’s event was shared between the City and MacDill Air Force Base officials, and included awards, live music and motivational speeches. WMNF’s Mark Anderson has more.

Tampa’s 14th annual history month celebration was held in the jam-packed city council chambers, and was focused on how quickly women’s rights have changed. Women’s History Month was started 30 years ago by the National Women’s History Project. Fox Channel 13 anchor Cynthia Smoot was Master of Ceremonies.

Women’s History Week was started in Sonoma County, California, and in 1981, a co-sponsored joint congressional resolution that proclaimed National Women’s History Week got passed. And then in 1987, Congress then expanded it to a month. So this is still a relatively new celebration, as celebrations go.

The theme this year is “Rewriting Women Back into History.” Event speakers said that women historically have made huge contributions to our country’s development, but that much of this has been ignored in history books largely written by and about men. Here’s Tampa Mayor Iorio:

Women have always played a very important role in history, but because they didn’t always hold a formal position of power, they often weren’t written into history. This is particularly true with the civil rights movement, and African-American women who did so much to further the civil rights movement, that I think have been neglected in the history books.

Stephanie Crawford was the keynote speaker. She was recently named as head men’s varsity basketball coach at Hillsborough High School. She spoke passionately about her values, and how they helped her break the barrier becoming one of the first female head coaches in the area.

I do not, I will not, ever, work in order to live. I will live, always, so that I may render service, and to be a blessing to others. If what I’m doing has nothing to do with helping youth to achieve, and do better, I’m simply not interested. My mother used to always say to me, “Baby, you can’t save everybody.” I always knew that, but I always felt that if I could just help save one, they could save one, and the cycle would consistently move forward.

Tampa awarded its annual Josephine Howard Stafford award to Sarah Lang. Past winners include former mayor Sandy Friedman, police Chief Jane Castor, and county Commissioner Rose Ferlita. This award recognized Lang as an outstanding city employee and community leader, and has been a tradition since 1997. Lang is the chief labor negotiator for the city.

I wouldn’t be in Tampa except for MacDill. My father was a colonel in the Air Force; what many of you might not know is that my mother was also an officer; she got pregnant with my sister, and they told her that she could stay in the service as long as her uniform fit. And of course, the uniform was a very straight skirt that didn’t allow for lots of room. So she retired during her pregnancy. But things have changed.

Col. Lawrence Martin awarded two outstanding service awards for the Air Force, one each for outstanding uniformed and civilian women. He described how much military culture has changed recently, embracing women’s roles throughout the services.

Today, women no longer need hide their identity to serve, and they make up about 20 percent of our military, and our military is much richer for their presence. Traditional lines have blurred, and female military members are stepping up to take on roles filled previously by only males. And not surprisingly, we’ve found they’re up to the task—proving that a person’s ability to serve is not determined by race, religion, national origin, or gender. Instead, we’ve learned that integrity, service, and excellence comes from within the hearts of our amazing young service members.

While his remarks applauded the military’s inclusiveness towards women, not all Americans are as fortunate. Notably missing in Martin’s remarks was any reference to potentially changing the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, which forces gay and lesbian soldiers to conceal their sexuality in order to avoid discharge.

To find out more about the National Women’s History Project, visit their web site. Tune into WMNF next Monday, when the focus of the nightly 6 p.m. news will be on International Women’s Day.

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