Toastmasters members bring women's history to life

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- Most personnel who attended the Women's History Month Luncheon already knew that Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski, Air Force Materiel Command commander, would be the guest speaker, but who would have ever thought that Florence Nightingale, Eleanor Roosevelt and Jacqueline Cochran would be joining her.

Three members of a Wright-Patt Toastmasters Club--all Air Force Life Cycle Management Center personnel--dressed up and took the audience on a time machine back to the days when women were not recognized for their efforts to improve conditions for women. 

Through the voice of Gina Martinelli, a management analyst, Nightingale carried her light to the podium and told the audience about her efforts to improve conditions at British hospitals in the mid-1800s.

Through the voice of Dinah Luneke, an acquisition associate, Roosevelt spoke about her activism and human rights achievements through her role as First Lady from March 1933 to April 1945.

And lastly, through the voice of Linda Canter, a program manager, Jacqueline "Jackie" Cochran spoke about her escape from poverty and the cotton mills by learning how to fly in 1932.

Having the confidence to persevere was a key theme of the luncheon and each of these women, as well as the historical women they portrayed, had these traits. 

According to their website, Toastmasters is a "world leader in communication and leadership development."  They have over 332,000 memberships, and these members attend various meetings at one or more of the 15,400 clubs in 135 countries to improve their speaking and leadership skills.

So not only did these three women speak in the voice of a leader from the past, but they are in the process of working on their own leadership skills.

Martinelli stated that she joined Toastmasters to build confidence and improve communication and leadership skills. 

"I knew if I wanted to be more successful, I needed to work on these skills," she said.  "I have grown more than I could have imagined through my experience in Toastmasters and formed some wonderful, life-long relationships."

Luneke, a member of Toastmasters for more than five years, said while she was hesitant at first, after her first meeting--she was "hooked." She has given more than 50 speeches.

"Not only does Toastmasters provide a forum to regularly practice public speaking, but it also teaches intrinsic communications skills that go well beyond what a bachelor degree in communications offers," Luneke said. 

There are three Toastmasters clubs at Wright-Patt: Huffman Prairie, Wright-Flyers and Tarmac. Each meet on different days and at different times. For more information or to find a club, please visit