Interesting article on the history of women in the AF

The gender challenge: tough times--women to Airmen.

With the stroke of a pen, on June 12, 1948, President Harry S. Truman For other persons named Harry Truman signed Public Law 625, the Women's Armed Services Integration Act Women's Armed Services Integration Act, United States law enacted on June 12, 1948, enabled women to serve as permanent, regular members of the armed forces in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and the recently formed Air Force. , and opened military doors for the enlistment and appointment of women in the Regular and Reserve Air Force. Less than a month later, July 8, Sgt. Ester Blake used her pen to make history as the first enlisted woman enlisted woman

No longer were women relegated to auxiliary corps.

It's been 61 years since those doors were opened and pioneers flew in. Sergeant Blake transferred from the Women's Army Corps Women's Army Corps

Just because the gateway was open, that did not mean it was an easy passage. Retired Chief Master Sgt. Dale Armwood, a Chester, Pa., native, remembered WAF WAF 1 or Waf

"(Hometown) people thought the women in the Air Force were there to service the guys in the Air Force." said Chief Armwood.

The perception was not made any better because "Women had to submit a full length picture. You had to look good enough to come into the Air Force." said Chief Master Sgt. Carol Poynor. who entered the Air Force in August 1958.

Some of the challenges were subtle or indirect, such as the initial limitations to combat career field choices, pay allowances and recruiting restrictions.

How Air Force officials approached the orientation and training of women was boldly clear in the 1954 Air Training Command Manual 35-2, "WAF Manual--A Handbook for the Air Force Woman."

"The Story of a Girl named Ginger Jones" is the narrative subject the writers used to take trainees through each section. One entire section of the manual detailed the importance of good facial complexion and proper skin care.

By today's standards this section communicated much more than its first paragraph. "You're the girl. You're the girl who can do something wonderful with her looks. Do you know why? Because you're in a unique spot as a WAF," states the first paragraph.

If that is not enough to raise an eyebrow in 2009, it goes on.

"Beyond the automatic blessings, your looks are all up to you. The first step is frankness with yourself. Do you like 'her?' Do you like the way she walks? Talks? Is she, frankly too big anywhere? What about her complexion? Do you think she is as pretty as she could be?"

The manual, a result of a skewed perception of women, left its mark and legacy.

Chief Poynor felt the pain of that perception after her first assignment at Hamilton AFB AFB
, Calif. This was her first duty station. For four years she worked as an administrative clerk in a communications squadron.

"We did a lot of work, I did good work. There were a lot of things going on and there was a lot of overtime," she recalled, her voice resonating with conviction. After she left for her next base, the chief clerk The Chief Clerk in the United States

The Chief Clerk, between 1789 and 1853, was the second-ranking official within the United States Department of State, known as the Department of Foreign Affairs before September 5, 1789. submitted her for an Air Force Commendation Medal. When he took the recommendation to his colonel for signature, she said that the commander said, "No (gosh-darn) WAF is that good," and threw it in the trashcan.

Yes, it hurt her, but today she shrugged her shoulders and said, "What are you going to do?"

Despite policy and procedures being in place to appeal, people were involved in the process, and not all of the time was it men who were roadblocks to equality.

"Sometimes the women were harder on women than men were," said Chief Armwood about challenges that seem to her to come from the left and the right. In 1978-80, then-Tech. Sgt. Armwood was the first woman to develop curriculum for the Leadership and Management Development Center at Maxwell AFB, Ala. Part of her duties were working with Chief Master Sgt. Dottle Holiday on evaluation trips. Upon their return, the handwritten reports were submitted to a secretarial pool but they were never typed out. They guessed that (the pool) kept moving their reports to the bottom of the pile.

Exasperated, they took action to resolve the situation, Chief Armwood recalled.

"We put together the Women's Sewing Circle and Terrorist Group, where we had brownbag luncheons with all the women and we would talk about all the things that upset us that day. It helped a lot. (The secretaries) would air what was bothering them and we were able to figure out where they were coming from and they were able to know where we {Sergeants Holiday and Armwood) were coming from. And then we knew we were all working toward the same thing." Chief Armwood said. "After that, we never had any problems getting our stuff typed up."

To the issue of allowances and privileges, retired Brig. Gen. Wilma Vaught, who joined the Air Force in 1957, said during the Oct. 31, 2007, Air Force Heritage to Horizon Women's Training Symposium, "There was a time when servicewomen who married a civilian man couldn't get the same privileges as the men married to civilian women. The husbands couldn't get an identification card unless they were disabled or declared mentally incompetent."

Change came in 1973, General Vaught said, when a brave 23-year-old Air Force first lieutenant challenged statutes that allowed a married serviceman to qualify for higher housing benefits even if his wife was not dependent on his income, while requiring a married servicewoman ser·vice·wom·an to prove her husband's dependence before receiving the same benefit.

The Supreme Court voted 8-1 to overturn the law.

Despite the inequities and negative perceptions at the time, Chief Armwood said she saw a greater goal. The Air Force, with great opportunities, was the key to women being something other than a housewife or mother. In addition to education, Chief Armwood, an African-American woman, saw a way to get an education and to also get away from racial prejudices.

"I knew there were no racial prejudices in the Air Force. because I remember in basic training there was this one lady in my room. She was complaining about the fact that she had to room with a black." she said. "Our (training instructor) got us all together in the dayroom. She preached to us for almost an hour. She kept saying, 'Them is no white and black in the Air Force. You are blue! You say it. What color are we?' 'We're blue ma'am. We're blue ma'am,' Armwood called out. 'I want you to cement that in your mind. There is no white and black in the Air Force. You are blue! You say it. What color are we? We're blue ma'am. We're blue ma'am. Now you dark blue Airmen go start cleaning the latrine "Right away I knew I found my niche in life," she said.

A second major leap in gender equality came when President Lyndon B. Johnson signed Public Law 90-130 on Nov. 8, 1967. The measure opened women's promotions to general and flag ranks. It removed the ceilings of other ranks, plus it removed the 2 percent ceiling on the number of active-duty enlisted women.

By the early '70s, the WAF squadrons began to dissolve, separate dormitories remained, and the organization was replaced with the Installation Resident for Military Women, an additional duty for a senior enlisted woman on base.

Finally, in June 1976, the office of WAF director was dissolved, as women became integral members of the Air Force.

Many gain great praise such as retired Chief Master Sgt. Dorothy Holmes. In a September 1979 Airman article, Chief Master Sgt. Elmer Wienecke, senior enlisted advisor at the Air Force Academy had these words to say, "I can truthfully tell you that Dorothy Holmes is THE professional noncommissioned officer. If an Airman came up to me and said, 'Someday I want to be a Dorothy Holmes,' I would know that (they) wanted to be a chief master sergeant chief master sergeant

"I can go no further than to say she's what every chief master sergeant strives to be," he said.

"There are still barriers for women," General Vaught said during a 1998 interview. She said that young women [in that day] needed to look around and see all problems aren't solved. "They haven't really looked around them and don't really understand that all the problems are not solved.

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