Compassion Speaks: Prelude to Women’s History Month

Memories of meeting some women in U.S. government

by Mary Beth Maney, RDC

It never ceases to amaze me who we meet in our journey through life.  A recent newspaper article brought back these memories.  They are also a neat fit for March being Women’s History Month.

Women in Military Services for America Monument
I am a Sister of the Divine Compassion (RDC), sixty-two years in community and the sole RDC World War Two Veteran.  The year was 1997, an historic occasion for me.  Along with 30,000 other women veterans and active servicewomen, I attended the dedication of Washington, D.C.’s newest monument, the Women in Military Services for America (WIMSA) Memorial at the gateway to Arlington National Cemetery. 

It was a celebration and recognition of American servicewomen, past, present and future.  Vice-President and Mrs. Gore, General Wilma Vaught, President of WIMSA, and Sandra Day O’Connor, first female Supreme Court Justice, were among the distinguished guests. 

One evening there was a spirited candlelight march from the Lincoln Memorial across the Memorial Bridge to a ceremony of remembrance.  Attorney General Janet Reno, the first woman to serve in that office, was guest speaker and said that, as a young girl, she had looked up to her two veteran aunts, whose dedication and commitment inspired her public service.  Taps, the memorial lighting and spectacular fireworks followed.  It was the highpoint of the weekend of October 16, 1997.

Attorney General at Pace Law School Convocation
Three years later, Sept. 25, 2000, Pace University Law School, in a convocation ceremony,  conferred an honorary Doctor of Laws degree upon Attorney General Janet Reno at the White Plains campus.  I looked forward to seeing her, as our grounds are adjacent to Pace.  It was a bit of a problem to obtain a ticket, but I eventually succeeded and took a tent seat at the end of a row where I could get up to take pictures. 

I was the only one there when a woman sat beside me and introduced herself as Mary Jo White and said she was here to support her boss, Janet Reno.  She introduced me to several of her assistant lawyers in the White Plains office.  Dr. Susan Merritt, RDC, gave the invocation, and, after the conferral of her degree, Janet Reno gave a talk stating that forty years before, when she had begun the study of law, there was a saying, “Look to your right, look to your left; one of you won’t be here next year!”  She has always been enthusiastic about the field of law. 

When I attempted to take photos, my seatmate encouraged me to go closer to the platform.  When the program ended, I had the honor of meeting Judith Kaye, Chief Judge of the N.Y. Court of Appeals, the first woman to occupy the state judiciary’s highest office. 

Later on at the reception, I introduced myself to Dr. Janet Reno and mentioned her role in the WIMSA dedication three years prior.  It was an exhilarating day and oh, yes, memorable even now, with so many “firsts” for women in our country. 

My "seatmate"
Much later, I learned about my tent companion, Mary Jo White, who was the first woman to serve as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, supervising some 200 assistant attorneys.  The current news is that President Obama has nominated her to be Chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission, which oversees Wall St. and prevents corporate abuse.
Another recent coup for women is the announcement of the end of the ban on female troops in combat.

More Women in the News
Also deserving of March mention are Hillary Rodham Clinton, just retired as United States Secretary of State and a champion for empowering women worldwide, and Sister Simone Campbell, SSS, of NETWORK and the famous “Nuns On the Bus.”

What barriers have been broken!  The glass ceiling has been shattered, and new standards continue to motivate and inspire countless women who will follow.

Who has made your day?
“How wondrous are God’s ways working in and through women – women thankful for the blessings of today, yesterday, and tomorrow” (Dorothy Metz, SC).

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.


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