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Well-behaved women seldom make history - A Women’s History Month tribute to the women who shape our lives

U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville
Published March 24, 2020
“Growing up, My Grandmother was my rock. She always provided me and my family guidance and direction on doing the right thing and making our life better than hers.  She was my inspiration for everything I did because I always wanted to make her proud.”

“Growing up, My Grandmother was my rock. She always provided me and my family guidance and direction on doing the right thing and making our life better than hers. She was my inspiration for everything I did because I always wanted to make her proud.”

I love a good quote. A few words strung together in a simple sentence can elicit complex feeling, inspire us to accomplish great deeds and, at times, be downright revolutionary. Some of the best quotes are attributed to Unknown. Unknown has motivated and inspired people for centuries. It’s now known that being unknown was often the only way a woman could have her words heard.

Yet there are women who refused to stand quietly. Women who refused to behave. It has always fascinated me that what was considered well-behaved for women generally meant that they stayed unseen and silent.

“Well-behaved women rarely make history,” is one of my most loved quotes. It has been attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt, Anne Boleyn, Marylyn Monroe and, of course, Unknown. The earliest evidence of a version of this phrase according to Quote Investigator appeared in an academic paper in the journal “American Quarterly” in 1976 by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, a Pulitzer Prize-winning American historian whose approach to history has been described as a tribute to “the silent work of ordinary people.”

That women who dare to be heard and dare to pursue accomplishment were considered to be disobedient is not just a part of history. It is a part of my lifetime. The trail that was blazed by disobedient women is still being cleared today.

History has given us extraordinary women. But we don’t have to look back to find women who are pushing aside the boundaries and obstacles that have long confined women’s opportunities and abilities.

And we do not have to look far ahead to see the future of women’s equality. It is here, present and bold, in the determined, strong, fervent lives of our wives, sisters, mothers, daughters and granddaughters. And it is present in the faces of the men who are standing up and supporting these women who are securing our future.

This month, as we honor the women of the past who have blazed the trail, we also honor the women in our lives who are determinedly marching further and further along this trail. Let’s all bring these women to the forefront of our lives, this month and always, and share how they support, inspire, motivate and shape us all to be the individuals we are today and the nation we will be tomorrow.

Here are some of the inspiring women who have shaped the lives of Huntsville Center’s extraordinary professionals:

Katrisa Norwood, Equal Employment Opportunity specialist
“Growing up, My Grandmother was my rock. She always provided me and my family guidance and direction on doing the right thing and making our life better than hers. She was my inspiration for everything I did because I always wanted to make her proud.”

Carol Elder, Medical Interior Design lead
“I would love to see Julia Chlarson recognized for Women’s History Month. It's truly hard to put into words all she does and how she does it but, to me, she is a great example of an inspiring leader, an inspiring peer and an inspiring friend. She makes a difference. She is selfless, a true selfless leader. She leads from behind as well as in front. She empowers her team and always has time for a laugh or funny antidote.”

Stephen Baack, public affairs specialist
“Lillian May Armfield (Dec. 3, 1884 – Aug. 26, 1971) inspires me because she excelled as a police detective in the 1920s, '30s and '40s despite systemic inequality and discrimination that put her at a distinct disadvantage on the streets of Sydney during a time of violent gang warfare. While she was physically tough, a big part of her success was diligent police work that ensured gang leaders were caught, charged and convicted. She also showed compassion by helping at-risk girls, some of whom she could have arrested – but instead, mentored them and showed them a path to a better life.”

Raul Alonso, project engineer
“My wife Marilyn inspires me. She came to this country from communist Cuba at the age of 5, along with her four siblings and their mom. She was the middle child of five siblings and at the age of 12 she began caring for her other four siblings while her father worked three jobs to support the family. She stood behind her family cooking and caring for her siblings while her father worked. They would take turns to help their dad at 3 a.m. baking pastries in a bakery. She attended inner-city schools at a very young age in Miami learning never to back down but always keeping her faith. She is the only one in her family who graduated from college, and today she is an educator at Holy Spirit Regional Catholic School, in Huntsville, Alabama, teaching Spanish to over 350 students, pre-K through eighth grade. She is a devout Catholic woman, very engaged with the Hispanic family community and the youth. She still continues to be the pillar of support for her siblings. She inspires me and our three children with her “attitude is everything," in the midst of life's struggles and health issues (she has multiple sclerosis). She is my support, my inspiration, of 32 years.”

Crystal Bennett Echols, acquisition manager and technical lead
“Margaret Simmons is truly an inspirational woman of Huntsville Center. She is responsible for the legal aspects of everything the Center executes. This is a huge workload, with constant issues and demanding priorities. Through the seemingly unrealistic demands on her, she remains highly responsive and always positive. She is always the first person in the room to encourage and motivate others to continue to work through issues when things seem almost impossible. Margaret is always willing to stand up for what she believes is right and will work into the late hours of the night to support the missions of the Center. She is a wealth of knowledge and history that can be found nowhere else at Huntsville Center. I truly aspire to make many positive impacts and to build an epic reputation within the Center, just as Margaret Simmons has done over the course of her career.”

Henrik Thomsen, Chief, AE Contracts and Criteria Branch
“I am inspired daily by my wife, Barbara and daughter, Anna, and their dedication to the service of our country. Barbara lived the life of an Army spouse until my Army retirement a few years ago. Though she worked as a math and science teacher serving Army families most of the time, she often put her career and education on hold to focus on raising our children and keeping our family together during eight PCS moves and numerous deployments. Anna thrived as part of an Army family, quickly making friends and proving her resilience as she transitioned from school to school (seven different schools from K through high school!!). Following graduation from Case Western Reserve University, Anna decided to join the Army team and focus on something bigger than herself. She is currently an Army second lieutenant training to be an EOD officer. I don't have to look far for inspiration.”