The nation is approaching summer’s centennial of the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S Constitution, which gave women the right to vote. Steam’s up for a variety of celebrations across the country.
Locally, the Foundation for Women Warriors, California’s distinguished service agency for women veterans, is also celebrating its first 100 years.
Chief executive officer Jodie Grenier, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, says: “We’re launching a year-long celebration on June 1, reviewing 100 years of women in military service. We’re asking women warriors to share their own stories. For the past 100 days leading up to our anniversary, we posted a woman warrior who has made a significant contribution or met a milestone.”
In addition, everyone is welcome to the organization’s celebratory hosting of a virtual screening of “The Hello Girls” at 6 p.m. on June 12 by linking to classy.org/event/the-hello-girls-screening/e288120.
The movie is the untold story of 223 women sent to France in 1918 by the U.S. Army Signal Corps as telephone operators to help win World War I. These women returned from service with no recognition or veteran status.
Foundation for Women Warriors was formerly known as Military Women in Need. It was created in 1920 as a housing subsidies program for widows and mothers of fallen service members of World War I and war nurses. In 2005, the organization began its focus on women veterans.
Grenier says, “Women get out of the military and often struggle financially, especially single mothers. Our efforts enhance their economic sustainability while they actively pursue careers or educational goals.”
Women who work in the same civilian capacities as men often face a wage gap. Grenier notes, “We’re seeing the evolution of how roles have changed but there is still an economic impact. Women veterans face a gender pay gap that they didn’t experience in the military and increased cost of childcare.”
For many of us, the memory has slipped from our consciousness, but prior to (and through) the women’s suffrage movement, which ramped up its presence in the1800s, married women could not own property, make legal contracts, or vote. And they certainly were not allowed to serve in the military, though many disguised themselves so they could.
As the Foundation for Women Warriors commemorates its first 100 years, these warriors are taking time to look back at how far they’ve come. Grenier recognizes that there is still a distance to go.
“We want more women to fill the ranks and not encounter bias from their male counterparts, even though society has not fully wrapped its head around women in full combat service,” she said.
Today nearly 17 percent of U.S. armed forces are women, with 1.85 million women veterans, some 163,000 of them in California. To date, the Foundation for Women Warriors has served 1,145 women and children in Southern California this year.
A warrior, according to FFWW, is a person known for having courage and skill. The nonprofit organization utilizes a woman veteran’s strength to overcome obstacles in her transition to civilian life. Learn more at foundationforwomenwarriors.org.