Women’s History Month: they believed they could so they did
By Senior Airman Racheal E. Watson, 460th Space Wing Public Affairs
/ Published March 31, 2016
BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- More than 95 years have passed since the 19th amendment was ratified, allowing women the right to vote. Over 67 years ago Esther Blake became the first woman who enlisted on the first minute of the first hour of the first day active United States Air Force duty was authorized for women. In recent months, Hillary Clinton is the first woman to run for presidency.
"We get to enjoy the privileges from the work of the people before us," said Maj. Amanda Hardy, 460th Medical Operations Squadron mental health flight commander. "To keep from repeating history, we have to be aware of where we come from."
Americans remember the trailblazers of the past during Women's History Month, an annual celebration held in the month of February, which allows all to recognize the unique contributions women have made. We honor their legacies by not forgetting the struggles they endured and learning from the powerful examples they set.
It is also a time for personal reflection, honoring the women in our own families who sacrificed and strived for equality while pursuing their vision of the American dream.
Hardy and Senior Master Sgt. Tammie Gaudu, 460th Space Communications Squadron operations flight chief, hit closer to home, learning from the women in their own families.
Gaudu's grandparents were old fashioned. Her grandmother stayed at home to take care of the household and the children while her grandfather was the breadwinner.
"That was her life," said Gaudu. "Not too much purpose outside of the family. Which is a good thing, but if anything happened to my grandfather she would have been kind of lost."
Progressing some years forward, Gaudu's mom started out with a similar lifestyle, marrying very young and having her first child.
"Times got a little hard for us at certain times of her life," said Gaudu. "She took on minimum-wage jobs, like sewing or being a nurse's aid, to make things easier for our family, but her main priority was to be at home with the family, taking care of us kids."
While Gaudu's grandmother and mother led similar lifestyles, she felt her life had something else in store. Hearing and seeing the lives of the women before her instilled with lessons and inspiration of the women before her, she walked down the path less travelled by women in her family and joined the Air Force.
"[Because I chose to be an Airman,] I wasn't always the mother right there with my daughter, teaching her all the life lessons, but I was there by whatever means was available to us, whether it was phone or writing when I was deployed," said Gaudu. "But she and I are very close. She sees what I do and I think she has a lot of respect for that. I think she is proud of me."
Gaudu explained because of progression in her women's family history, her daughter is now 25 years old and living on her own terms, figuring out what she wants from life on her own terms.
"She is growing up to be a very strong independent woman, which makes me proud," said Gaudu.
Gaudu passed on her life lessons not only to her daughter, but also her the Airmen she takes under her wing.
"I was never held back because I was a women," said Gaudu. "I have always gone in and done a great job. I have always been recognized for the work that I have done and that's what carried me through. To succeed, women don't have to come in as if they have something to prove. They just need to come in and do their job and treat others as they would want to be treated. In return they will succeed. It doesn't mean they are not going to face some adversity from time to time, but it's how they handle that."
Knowing their family history gave Hardy and Gaudu wisdom to pass on to not only their children, but also those who get to know them.
"I was raised in a single-parent home," said Hardy. "My mom is my role model because I saw her charging forward, paving her way through a male-dominate work environment and then take care of everything at the house."
Living in a small community in southern Colorado, Hardy's mother filled her with self-empowerment.
"My mother was very fortunate in the fact we come from a very big family and we had the people around us to help," said Hardy. "She taught me that I can do anything that I wanted. Since second grade she told me I was going to college and I could do anything I want."
Since Hardy's mom was the sole provider, she spent the majority of her week at work.
"She was the only female in the office," said Hardy. "It was an insurance company, but she was really the one that ran things around there. They really respected her. It helped set the template for me and how a woman could succeed in the work environment."
By setting the example for Hardy, her mother instilled in her the confidence she needed to succeed.
"The more confident we are the more we will actually try things," said Hardy. "If someone believes they can do something, they're more likely to push forward. By instilling that in me and having the support of the community I grew up in, it allowed me to be successful."
Hardy explained she came from a family with women who have strong personalities, advocating for what they believed was right.
"We tell people to believe in themselves, they can do whatever they want and what is more important is to believe in their capabilities and have a mentor around them," said Hardy. "It is really important to have someone to look up to, whether it is male or female, and try to build that connection because when we have someone positive they show us things can be done."