Here are this year's Women's Equality Day Reformed talks:
Joy Dechiario, Co-chairperson WEDR, 8-18-06:
Good Afternoon and welcome to you all on
behalf of this year’s Women’s Equality Day
Reformed Committee. We thank the
Honorable Gordon A. Burrows whose
sponsorship has allowed us this space
under equal access and free speech.
August 26 will be the 86th anniversary of the 19th Amendment
that gave women the right to vote. It was 1920 when women
finally had their voices heard at the ballot box, and we are
happy to celebrate this day with all women! The suffragettes
Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott would,
however, be very troubled if they were alive today. For those
who spoke so forcefully for equality in the voting booth, also spoke
forcefully against taking the life of the unborn. We are a
Committee “Reformed” to help right this distortion of feminist
history. It is very appropriate that our theme this year is
“Courage” because I am sure that each of us sitting
here can think of a woman who has shown extraordinary
courage in everyday life. Heroes and role models are everywhere
and include our previous honorees and recipients of the Mott,
Stanton, Anthony award. They were Mildred Fay Jefferson, M.D.,
Lisa Marrero, M.D., Dorothea Muccigrosso, and the Domincan
Sisters of Hawthorne at Rosary Hill Home.
Today our honoree is another wonderful role model. She is co-founder
of the Interracial Women’s Leadership Roundtable in Purchase, NY,
Christine Mortell Plazas, whose example of professional and volunteer
service reflects a unique kind of courage.
We will also give special recognition to women in the armed forces,
and commend our Gold Star and Blue Star Mothers and Wives.
Our scheduled guest speaker, LTC Jacqueline L. Russell, Commander of the 101st Signal Battalion in Yonkers regretfully is unable to join us due to a death in her family that required her presence in Vermont. But we have with us Staff Sgt. Catherine Ramos who honors us with her presence on very short notice, and who will be speaking to us. We are also happy to have accompanying Sgt. Ramos, Master Sgt. Donald Tucciariello.
And so we are happy that all of you are here to join us. We hope that you will leave with renewed faith in the country we love, and be inspired to make your voices heard with courage and determination.
REGINA RIELY, Co-chairperson WEDR, and Feminist for Life of NY:
I would like to begin with a story…
A woman whose husband is in the artillery goes to war with him as
laundress and cook for the enlisted men. During battle she brings
water along the line to cool the hands and faces of the crews. She
sees her husband killed. As if in one inspired motion, this heroine
then takes up the primer and fires the cannon for the remainder
of the battle. During the same war a 16-year-old girl hears critical
information from an enemy soldier whose tongue is loosened by
too much ale. The teen rides a horse 20 miles through woods and
across swamp to warn American troops of this critical intelligence.
These events occurred within a 100-miles radius of here 230 years
ago. Molly Pitcher and Sybil Luddington were those American
colonial heroines. Today we give special honor to women of
In the 19th century, Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and
Susan B. Anthony, by their courage, perseverance and enlightened
publications, paved the way for women’s political voice in the U.S.
that came with the right to vote in 1920.
In more recent times, and in our audience, we have a member of
the Nurse Cadet Corps, part of the military established by FDR
during WWII. Please stand Goldie Solomon. We want to talk with
you more about your experiences when ceremony concludes.
Now, another face from that same era for you to picture: How
about that skinny guy welding at the Tarrytown Eastern Aircraft
plant in denim overalls? You glace up as he lifts up his welder’s
mask and see a blonde gal wearing lipstick behind that face shield.
The homefront actively recruited women in WWII. Rosie Bonavita
of Peekskill and Jennie Fiorito of Ossining (cousins) were at this
very factory. They set a record, completing the trailing edge wing
assembly drilling more than 900 holes and driving over 3,345
rivets during one shift in less than six hours. This feat was
immortalized by the icon Rosie the Riveter, painted first by
J. Howard Miller and then by Norman Rockwell.
Courage through service has many faces.
Perhaps the women who show the most courage and moral
strength are the mothers who watch their soldier-children go off
to defend our freedoms, like the right to vote. These young men
and women’s heroism is a reflection of the virtue and courage
exemplified by their mothers. Gold Star Mothers are those who
lost sons and daughters in battle. Gold Star Wives who lost
husbands in WWII like Natalie Maddalena, here with us today.
Blue Star Mothers have had children serve in battle. Please stand
Mildred Pinn whose son served in Vietnam.
But another war has been here for 33 years, 45 million have
died and the walking wounded include 30 million women. One
woman stood before a public assembly and with the courage of
Mott, Stanton and Anthony, declared her pro-life convictions
before an audience opposed. It was a victory won in an ongoing
battle. A woman’s courage today is truly tested if she promotes
human life in all its stages.
Finally, the military that protects us at home and abroad have
become more visible after 911. The National Guard has taken on
a new significance and our guest speaker, Staff Sgt. Catherine
Ramos will tell you about their efforts.
Staff Sgt. Catherine Ramos, New York Army National Guard, Headquarters, 101st Signal Battalion, Yonkers:
*******The definition of courage: mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty*****
Good Afternoon, My name is Catherine Ramos; I am a Staff Sergeant in the New York Army National Guard. I enlisted in the New York Army National Guard in August of 2002, prior to that I was on active duty in the United States Marine Corps from 29 January 1996 until 28 January 2001., I was then in the Marine Corps Inactive Ready Reserve until 09 August 2002 when I enlisted in the New York Army National Guard. LTC Jacqueline Russel was supposed to be here today but due to a personal situation is unable to attend, she is truly sorry for not being able to come.
My brother Jim went into the United States Marine Corps after high school for 4 years. My Mother begged him not to go because Desert Storm was going on but he went anyway. He came home on leave 3 years later with his girlfriend Kim, who was also a Marine. My sister and I were both home and spent some time talking to her about how she could be a Marine. She told us stories of what she went through and how proud she was of who she was and also that they were paying for her college and that she had gotten the chance to live in Japan for a year. My sister loved the whole idea and went to see a recruiter.
I was going to Bergen Community College at the time and working to pay tuition so the idea of free college was very appealing, I decided that I would go with my sister. We signed up for the Buddy System, where we would be able to go to Boot Camp and technical school together. Neither of us had ever shot a weapon, been in a real fist fight or even new what a gas chamber was, the only thing we had going for us was that we were both athletic and would have each other.
We left on January 29, 1996 for 13 weeks of all female Boot Camp, our Recruiter informed to get a good look at the guys at the airport because we would not be seeing any more for 13 weeks. There was 98 Females in our platoon when we started and 56 of us Graduated on April 26, 1996. Going to Marine Corps Boot Camp with your sister who could be your identical twin was not a good idea. We were constantly picked on for being unable to do it on our own and needing our sister to make it through. Both of us made it through Boot Camp and continued on to Air Traffic Control Communication School for 46 weeks together. After school I went on to Hawaii for 4 years and my sister to Japan for a year and California for her last 3 years.
Marine Corps Boot Camp was one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life. The courage it took to get on the plane to go to Parris Island, into the unknown, I’m still not sure how I did it.
My contract ended on 28 January 2001, and I got out and went to complete my last 2 years in the Marine Corps Inactive Ready Reserve. I now had a 20 month old son and he had become my priority. I worked for a manufacturing company and then got a job in an elementary school and was taking college courses online but something was missing. I ran into a family friend at a July 4th picnic in 2002 and he told me about the National Guard, where I could be in the military just one weekend a month a two weeks a year; I signed up 09 August 2002. I then got really lucky and applied for a job in Yonkers Armory and I got it. I have been on active duty since 26 September 2002 and I really enjoy it.
As a member of the US Military force in the year 2006, I can see how far women have come. Over 100 years ago women were allowed into the Military only as nurses; in today’s military women can be almost anything. The military requires you to be available to go leave at short notice leaving your family and friends behind. I have gone to countries in Eastern Europe where the women in these countries are still treated as less than a man. It makes me very proud to be in American and in our military which defends the freedoms that we have today.
Judith Anderson, Co-chairperson WEDR 8-18-06 and Feminist for Life of NY:
(standing ovation for Sgt. Ramos) Thank you, Sgt. Ramos, for your wonderful presentation.
And now... when we asked Christine if she would like to be introduced to our audience by a special friend or associate, she said, "Of course! Dorothy Orr." We, too, can think of no one better to share the day's honor with her than her co-founder of the Interracial Women's Leadership Roundtable and recipient of the original Committee's 1997 Westchester Woman of the Year award - Dorothy J. Orr.
Christine Mortell Plazas, 2006 Honoree and Feminist for Life of NY, Acceptance Speech:
COURAGE just introduced me! My friend and mentor Dorothy J. Orr has inspired more than three generations of women to be brave with word and action to reach for racial understanding and harmony by energizing women around her. As a female forerunner in American corporations, in American politics, in academics and in the Westchester community her optimism and bravery leads her to create racial harmony. She inspires and enables women to join her in the pursuit of equality. She “walks the walk” and says, “Let’s Talk” which lead me to her. The minute I met her 17 years ago creative sparks flew and we founded along with some great women---The Interracial Women’s Leadership Roundtable.”
I am so honored to be awarded this Mott-Stanton-Anthony Award and I gratefully thank the committee for choosing me---thank you Regina, Judy and Joy. I would also like to recognize my parents, who taught me the value of life and to treat every person I encounter with respect. I thank my daughters for continuously teaching me the values that I have taught them-forming a circle.
On the anniversary of American Women’s right to vote I am humbled by the courage of the 10,000 American woman across the county who fought and won the right to vote for women---they also fought for abolition of slavery and right to life. In 1890 the National American Women Suffrage Association was created.
Do you think they all agreed on the same issues? Even though they were gathered to fight for the right for such a basic noble cause --- the right to vote? NO. Each of the 10,000 had a seperate opinion. They had a convention and decided "We can only pull together to work for the ballot by letting alone our whims and prejudices on other subjects. We must work for the best intersts of womanhood."
My personal belief is in the right to life for each human being upon conception to natural death. I treasure my freedom in this county to be able to express my belief. I should not need courage to speak my heart. I think the best way to understand my own belief is to talk to other women, even women of opposing beliefs. We are so blessed in this county to have the freedom to disagree. Society and politics today are so caught-up with vicious criticism of each other instead of our freedom to talk.
I know that my mission in my life is to get women together to share their voices with each other. That’s why I co-founded the IWLR with Dorothy Orr. I respect the fact that we are required to listen and talk to each other for the greater good of our community.
This country is politically divided in half and bitterness prevails on both sides. We as women must use our ability to create positive dialogue and our wisdom to be role models of hope for understanding not necessarily agreement. In many parts of the world women are risking their lives for basic freedoms and we as American women have the obligation to be their role models of compassion for each other to show them that equality is not a dream but a right.
In that spirit of fighting for the “Best interests of womanhood”, courage to listen and respect various voices spoken from each woman in her heart to vote with conscience, I accept this great honor today.
Brigid Faranda, Co-chairperson WEDR and Feminist for Life of NY, Presentation of Award to Christine Mortell Plazas:
Christine, your award today reads: "Women's Equality Day Reformed presents the Mott-Stanton-Anthony Award to Christine Mortell Plazas. In Recognition of twenty-five years of professional and volunteer service to the community, highlighted by her dedicated advancement of cooperation and racial understanding in Westchester County as co-founder of the Interracial Women's Leadership Roundtable; In Recognition of her certain courage in defense of the values and ideals of Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Susan B. Anthony, champions of the inherent dignity of human life and equal rights for women. Presented on this eighteenth day of August In the year two thousand and six, A.D.
Judith Anderson, Sending:
Thank you all for being here with us today. I am amazed as I listened to all our speakers at how singular of mind, heart and spirit we all are - we did not know each other's talks before today - the Spirit is truly with us.
It has been wonderful to celebrate the goodness of the women here today. The good that we are and the good that we do takes courage and reminds us that there is hope for a world too often at odds with itself.
But make no mistake, Courage is tempered in adversity.
We have seen our feminist foremothers prove that with their long fight for the vote. This should humble us as we watch young democracies struggle to find shape and identity, both unique and universal, old and new, reflecting the best of themselves and the ideals of the democratic freedoms they aspire to make their own. Make no mistake, it will take Courage.
We thank our veterans present, our military guests, our Nurse Cadet Corps representatives, and most especially our Gold Star and Blue Star mothers and wives. No one seeks that kind of Courage, but these women have accepted sacrifice with dignity and a sense of purpose beyond their personal loss. There are not enough thanks for such as these.
We thank our honoree, Christine Mortell Plazas, for her strength of character and for the courage of her convictions in celebrating the dignity of all people. She and Dorothy are examples of women who exemplify the good that can come when minds are set on the good. As women we must look to each other and see not enemies, but women of good will who seek to address critical issues at hand. We must work hard to find the best solutions and in order to do this we must listen to each other’s voices, but speak the truth at all cost, especially to those in power. Make no mistake, Courage is costly.
Thank you for joining us today. Work with us in the months ahead and be here next year!
WEDR 2006 – 8/18/06
Stories of Guests Unable to Attend
Portia Clark WWII – You’re in the Navy Now
At 18, filled with innocence and patriotic ideals, an enthusiastic girl left her home in Pennsylvania to enlist in the Navy. Her basic training was carried out at the then Hunter College in the Bronx. Calisthenics and marching drills in the middle of an icy February could not dampen her fervor or that of her companions. They ranged from 16-25 years of age. Portia finished basic with flying colors, even if her arm had felt sore from all the immunization shots.
Her first orders were to Stillwater Oklahoma for secretarial training. Her billet for the remainder of the war was Washington, D.C. She was assigned to a Navy Commander in the Joint Electronic Information Agency. She handled highly classified material shared among the various branches of the U.S. military. The Agency was a joint Army/Navy venture for documenting, testing, and improving the early stages of radar. Portia was in the process of being selected for Officer Candidate School when the war ended. She had served from 1943-1946 and was honorably discharged as Yeoman second class.
Under the G.I. Bill, Portia went to the Kodiak School of Photography, the University of Rochester, and the University of Chicago. She had a keen interest in philosophy, especially Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. English literature including Shakespeare was the other group of courses she enjoyed reading.
Now this youthful 86-year-old honors Croton-on-Hudson, NY as one of its esteemed residents. She would have been delighted to be here but was unable to do so.
Dorothy Chardri of a Rosie the Riveter Team
During WWII a mother of a three-year-old signed on for a nine-month stint in the GM plant used to assemble airplanes. Daily, Dorothy left her daughter at a Yonkers nursery where she lived and carpooled to the factory.
She was the quality control part of a two-woman riveting team. Dorothy carried heavy metal bucking bars of different shapes. The noise of a hundred riveting guns going off simultaneously was deafening. The cavernous building echoed and intensified the sound.
She had to hold the weighty bucking bar, pressing it hard against the sheet metal as the girl with the riveting gun shot the rivets in. The bolts had to melt and flatten smoothly on the outer edge of the bars. If the bolts were not perpendicular or not flat, Dorothy told the “gunner” to redo it. During her time at the plant she had two partners. The first one had some one in the service and was “gung-ho” to get as many rivets in as possible. “She would get so annoyed when I told her to take out a weak rivet and do it again. I could not have a faulty wing assembly on my conscience. Men’s lives are dependent on these planes holding together.”
Dorothy’s fine workmanship was recognized when she and her second “gunner” did blind bucking. After a rivet was done, she would feel inside where the wing came to a point to confirm that it was flush. Her second teammate was laid back. Doing rivets over didn’t bother her. She was a Black lady who worked so well with Dorothy that they became efficient and proficient partners. Only the best teams did blind bucking.
86 years young, Dorothy Chardri now resides in Peekskill. Due to medical reasons she was not able to attend today’s events.
Dorothy J. Orr, Introduction of Christine Mortell Plazas:
Today we the women-all women of Westchester gather to honor Christine Plazas, The
Woman of the Year 2006! A very special “lady” who “cares” and whose leadership
reflects a delicate balance, appreciation and respect for political, for racial, for religious
and for gender differences while retaining her personal beliefs and values!!
When I think of “Christine Plazas” and her leadership in this country, I think of Rodney
King’s now famous exclamation during the riots of Los Angeles: “Can’t we all get
And so in a year when the entire world but particularly women are alarmed-yes, even
frightened with the cultural, ethnic and philosophical differences and hostility, which
now results in destruction of families, children and those support systems women hold
Today is a pause, yes a relief from the media pictures of destruction, a time to honor
Christine Plazas whose caring spirit and special skill in bringing women of all classes,
cultures and philosophies together to better understand and appreciate each other.
Christine was a Founder of the Interracial Women’s Leadership Roundtable, an
organization whose goal is to bring together women leaders from women’s organizations:
Junior Leagues, League of Women Voters, The Links, Jewish Committee, Jack and Jill,
Hispanic Coalition, Chinese Association of America, the young, the baby boomers, the
Need I remind you!! This was a challenge!! The African American women who still were
reluctant and suspicious of the Junior League who had banned them from membership
some time in history. The Caucasian women who were unaware of class differences. The
Asian women who harbored pain from adjectives regarding their slanted eyes.
It was Christine Plazas and her leadership, sensitivity, caring and the strategy of that
monthly “Can We Talk” sessions that there emerged a “bonding”- a new “understanding”
of the differences and similarities of all women leaders.
Christine is a special mother whose dedication to values and the teaching of what’s right
to her two daughters is reflected in a beautiful essay written to the roundtable in which
her eldest daughter expressed appreciation of all humanity and a commitment to
“Continue doing the same when she grew-up.”
Christine, like many women of the 21st century, is a devoted wife, who understands what
it means for husbands to be involved in a competitive world of business. Their home is a
happy gathering place whose friends from all nationalities and religions gather. A United
Nations to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with her Priest and to enjoy her culinary expertise
learned from her degree from Michigan State University-no less.
Now you know why I CHOSE to accept the invitation to present you, The Women of
Westchester, the Woman of the Year 2006, Christine Plazas.
Please stand and join me in honoring our Christine, a special woman leader, whom we all