The purpose of this article is to tell history as it happened. Although controversial people are mentioned, neither Wanda nor I endorse, support or recommend their philosophies other than to say there have been changes, some good, some bad. We choose to celebrate the good this month, want to be bold where there is iniquity, and pray for reconciliation between the genders as well as the healing of the family unit.
March is Women’s History month. Talking with my granddaughter, who wants to be an epidemiologist when she grows up, I realized there have been a lot of changes for women in my lifetime. When I was in the doll stage of my life the only thing I wanted was to grow up and have a family – four kids, a dog, a nice house and a husband. When I was a teen-ager, there were articles, news programs, books and marches saying “I am woman, hear me roar.” Helen Reddy wrote a song with that title in 1972. Today, I don’t hear much about the women’s movement, but I do see Dads more involved with children, and sometimes they are stay-at-home Dads doing housework and taking kids to doctors appointments and activities.
So what was the women’s movement? There are basically two stages to the women’s movement. The first is women’s suffrage – the right to vote. The Suffrage Movement in this country began in 1840 with Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, and Susan B Anthony. Anthony and Stanton drafted the legislation for women’s right to vote and Senator Aaron A. Sargent introduced it to the Senate in 1878. It was not until 1919 that it passed Congress and was sent to the states for ratification. It was ratified in August 1920. (www.archives.gov)
The second was about gender equality – equal pay for equal work. Kenneth Walsh wrote, “In the 1960s, deep cultural changes were altering the role of women in American society. More females than ever were entering the paid workforce, and this increased the dissatisfaction among women regarding huge gender disparities in pay and advancement, and sexual harassment at the workplace. (The 1960s: A Decade of Change for Women, Kenneth T. Walsh, www.USNews.com, March 10, 2010)
In the 70s strong women were determined to have their voices heard and women’s liberation was the buzzword. Betty Friedan was elected the first President of National Organization of Women (NOW). Gloria Steinem was a writer for New Yorker and co-founder of Ms Magazine. Shirley Chisholm was the first black congresswoman from New York in the House of Representatives. She served seven terms and ran for President in 1972. They all worked for social change and equality for women.
There was even legislation in the 70’s, The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), proposed to guarantee women equal rights. It was originally written by Alice Paul, and submitted to Congress in 1923. It finally passed in 1972 and was sent to the states to ratify. It did not meet the minimum number of ratifications to become an amendment by the deadline in 1982. Its opponents saw the bill as redundant since we had the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.
Today there are two competing sets of statistics regarding the pay gap. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research claims there is still a 77 cent difference between what men and women earn for the same work (http://www.iwpr.org/initiatives/pay-equity-and-discrimination). Breitbart and Christina Hoff Sommers, author of The War Against Boys, dispute that claim (http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Government/2014/03/17/77-Cents-Worth-of-Lies; http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/02/01/no-women-don-t-make-less-money-than-men.html). Sommers says that the gap has shrunk to 5 cents.
So, where do we go from here, and what can we celebrate? We can celebrate that in America, women have the freedom to develop their skills, make serious money, choose to stay home with their kids, and so much more. We can have the courage to look at what has been wrong, what is right, what needs to be balanced, and do our prayerful best to see to it that there is true “liberty and justice for all”–men, women and children. Happy Women’s History Month!
For a recommended reading list, call Wanda at the Center for Lifelong Reading- 256-233-8260.
Center for Lifelong Learning
121 South Marion Street
Athens, AL 35611
By: Wanda Campbell