Museum About Army Women To OpenFrom: "\"Doc\" Melson" <email@example.com>
May 9 2:46 PM ET
Museum About Army Women To Open
ROBERT BURNS, AP Military Writer
LEE, Va. (AP) - A nightgown sewn from a silk parachute. The dog tag of a World
War I Army nurse. A dinner set of white china. A Soviet-made machine gun belt
captured by a female MP from the Army. The personal papers and photos of the
first black woman commissioned as an Army officer.
and thousands of other artifacts on display at the new Army Women's Museum
opening Friday bring alive the long, sometimes turbulent history of soldiering
by American women.
gives you chills,'' says Celia Broyles, a museum staffer.
museum was at Fort McClellan, Ala., for 44 years until McClellan was closed in
1999 as part of a Pentagon plan to consolidate military bases. For a time it
seemed this slice of women's history might get shuttered, too. The Army
figured that since McClellan was closing, so should the museum.
again, said Bettie Morden, a retired colonel who served throughout the 36-year
history of the Women's Army Corps, and other WAC veterans. They insisted that
this showcase for WAC heritage - the only museum devoted exclusively to the
history of women in the Army - be preserved.
the word got out that they were going to close us, it hit the fan,'' said
Jackie Wolfe, a Vietnam-era veteran who is on the small civilian staff that
runs the new museum on this Army training base about 20 miles south of
Richmond. ``You get these women in a rile and they will get things done.''
got things done, but not without engaging in some bureaucratic hand-to-hand
lost the first battle: The Army closed the museum in Alabama, even though it
was built with $500,000 in private contributions from WAC veterans and
supporters, and the 5,000 artifacts had been privately donated.
they won the second: The Army agreed to open a new museum at Fort Lee, which
was home of the first WAC training center from 1948 to 1954 before it moved to
McClellan. Now, Fort Lee is home of the Quartermaster Corps, which trains
soldiers in providing services and support to combat forces.
museum has a colorful gallery portraying scenes from all major U.S. conflicts,
from the Revolutionary War to the Kosovo conflict. Among the artifacts on
display are well-preserved WAC uniforms, recruiting posters, a Soviet-made
machine gun belt that female Army MPs brought back from the 1983 U.S. invasion
of Grenada, and metal bunks from a World War II barracks at Fort Des Moines,
of the most compelling additions to the museum since it left McClellan is a
collection of artifacts that belonged to Harriet West Waddy, the first black
woman commissioned as an Army officer.
born in Jefferson City, Mo., in 1904, was an adviser to the Army on racial
issues during World War II. She died in 1999, leaving her collection of
documents, photographs and personal papers from a 25-year Army career with a
friend, Barbara Connolly, who provided it to the museum.
says the museum's name was changed from the Women's Army Corps Museum, as it
was known at McClellan, to the Army Women's Museum because the Army wanted to
broaden the museum's focus beyond the WAC, which was disbanded in 1978 to end
gender separation the Army.
the demise of the WAC, the role of women has continued to evolve. Although
women today are not allowed to drive tanks or fill other front-line combat
positions, they do nearly every other duty, including fly Apache attack
helicopters. The first WACs were limited to such jobs as clerks, typists and
Burgess, the museum director, said the Army initially wanted it built in the
shadow of the Army Quartermaster Museum, but the women insisted their museum
get its own plot - and it did.
had to fight a lot of battles,'' she says.
official groundbreaking was in April 2000. Construction began last fall. Since
then, Burgess and her staff have worked almost nonstop to get the gallery
exhibits ready for Friday's dedication ceremony.
back, Burgess says the battle for the museum was well worth fighting.
the future of the museum I think this is better, even though at first none of
us wanted to move,'' she said.
pleased with their victory, the women are not letting down their guard.
are still a lot of men out there who think women shouldn't be in the Army, let
alone have their own museum,'' Burgess says.
the Net: U.S. Army Women's Museum: http://www.awm.lee.army.mil/
this day to the ending of the world,
we in it shall be remember'd;
few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
he to-day that sheds his blood with me
be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
day shall gentle his condition:
gentlemen in England now a-bed
think themselves accursed they were not here,
hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day".
Henry V by William Shakespeare