Women’s Vote Can Change the World

Today is Women’s Equality Day. This blog says it all. Women’s history. Voting Rights. And the Equal Rights Amendment which states:

Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

 

Ninety-six years ago today, women won the right to vote with the addition of the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution. It’s now time for full equality. Women rights must be added to the US Constitution. Pass and ratify the Equal Rights Amendment.

Nel's New Day

Pickets-Women-White-HouseMy mother was born on November 12, 1899, just ten days too late to vote the United States legalized the vote for women. After 72 years of ridicule, imprisonment, forced feedings, and other forms of opposition to women gaining their full citizenship rights, the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution passed on August 18, 1920—thanks to one state legislator from Tennessee who followed his mother’s advice. Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby signed the proclamation after the certified record from Tennessee arrived at the capitol.

it's a woman's worldIn the first election, only nine million women, about 35 percent of those eligible, voted, compared to almost twice as many men. Public sentiment followed one of the headlines about the event: “Is suffrage a failure?” For the next 45 years, black women in the South joined black men to eliminate literacy tests, poll tests, and other voter suppression activities. Since 1980, however, women…

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Is “Anonymous” Always a Woman Anymore? NO!

We have all heard Virginia Woolf’s quote “Anonymous was a woman.”  This quote refers to women who have disappeared when speaking their truth, history, and art throughout much of recorded history. She may not have signed her statements. Her statements may have been attributed to either a male that she was associated with or she has, over time, had her voice misattributed to a man in the popular mind.  As with quotes, women’s history has long been made hidden or anonymous.

This hidden history is now being addressed and has been since the 1970’s here in the United States.  As President Jimmy Carter said in 1980:

“From the first settlers who came to our shores, from the first American Indian families who befriended them, men and women have worked together to build this nation. Too often the women were unsung and sometimes their contributions went unnoticed. But the achievements, leadership, courage, strength and love of the women who built America was as vital as that of the men whose names we know so well.

As Dr. Gerda Lerner has noted, “Women’s History is Women’s Right.” – It is an essential and indispensable heritage from which we can draw pride, comfort, courage, and long-range vision.”

Initially in the US, the federal government proclaimed the week surrounding March 8 (known around the world as International Women’s Day) as Women’s History Week.  By 1986, 14 states had declared March to be Women’s History Month to have schools and communities recognize and raise up the history of women – individuals as well as movements.  The following year Congress declared March as National Women’s History Month in perpetuity. Every year since then the President of the United States creates a special proclamation once again declaring March as Women’s History Month by highlighting the achievements of American women.

We as women are no longer “Anonymous.” Our voices and our history are being added to what children and adults learn.

As part of each year’s Women’s History Month, a theme is associated with the month’s programs on women’s history.  In 2016, that theme is Working to Form a More Perfect Union: Honoring Women in Public Service and Government.  Following this theme, leaders throughout the country, both women and men, have stepped up to the plate to highlight women’s service and history.

Here’s what President Obama said in his 2016 proclamation on February 29, 2016:

Throughout history, women have driven humanity forward on the path to a more equal and just society, contributing in innumerable ways to our character and progress as a people.  In the face of discrimination and undue hardship, they have never given up on the promise of America:  that with hard work and determination, nothing is out of reach.  During Women’s History Month, we remember the trailblazers of the past, including the women who are not recorded in our history books, and we honor their legacies by carrying forward the valuable lessons learned from the powerful examples they set.

For too long, women were formally excluded from full participation in our society and our democracy.  Because of the courage of so many bold women who dared to transcend preconceived expectations and prove they were capable of doing all that a man could do and more, advances were made, discoveries were revealed, barriers were broken, and progress triumphed.  Whether serving in elected positions across America, leading groundbreaking civil rights movements, venturing into unknown frontiers, or programming revolutionary technologies, generations of women that knew their gender was no obstacle to what they could accomplish have long stirred new ideas and opened new doors, having a profound and positive impact on our Nation.  Through hardship and strife and in every realm of life, women have spurred change in communities around the world, steadfastly joining together to overcome adversity and lead the charge for a fairer, more inclusive, and more progressive society.

During Women’s History Month, we honor the countless women who sacrificed and strived to ensure all people have an equal shot at pursuing the American dream.  As President, the first bill I signed into law was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, making it easier for working American women to effectively challenge illegal, unequal pay disparities.  Additionally, my Administration proposed collecting pay data from businesses to shine a light on pay discrimination, and I signed an Executive Order to ensure the Federal Government only works with and awards contracts to businesses that follow laws that uphold fair and equal labor practices.  Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies can no longer charge women more for health insurance simply because of their gender.  And last year, we officially opened for women the last jobs left unavailable to them in our military, because one of the best ways to ensure our Armed Forces remains the strongest in the world is to draw on the talents and skills of all Americans.

Though we have made great progress toward achieving gender equality, work remains to be done.  Women still earn, on average, less for every dollar made by men, which is why I continue to call on the Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act — a sensible step to provide women with basic tools to fight pay discrimination.  Meanwhile, my Administration has taken steps to support working families by fighting for paid leave for all Americans, providing women with more small business loans and opportunities, and addressing the challenges still faced by women and girls of color, who consistently face wider opportunity gaps and structural barriers — including greater discrepancies in pay.  And although the majority of our Nation’s college and graduate students are women, they are still underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, which is why we are encouraging more women and girls to pursue careers in these fields….

This month, as we reflect on the marks made by women throughout history, let us uphold the responsibility that falls on all of us — regardless of gender — and fight for equal opportunity for our daughters as well as our sons.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim March 2016 as Women’s History Month.  I call upon all Americans to observe this month and to celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8, 2016, with appropriate programs, ceremonies, and activities. 

Similarly, in my back yard, the Centre County Commissioners today proclaimed March 2016 as Women’s History Month here is Centre County and presented the proclamation to Michele Hamilton, President of Ni-Ta-Nee NOW (the local chapter of the National Organization for Women).

Before we were given the proclamation, Michele talked about the history of Women’s History Month and this year’s theme. She then called upon people throughout the county to recognize local woman who have taken up public service and/or are serving our local communities in public office past and present and in the future.

 

01-2016 Women's History Month CC Proclamation  IMG_8934

Michele Hamilton, President of Ni-Ta-Nee NOW presenting the history of the creation of Women’s History Month. Note that in honor of women’s history, we wore the suffragists’ emblematic colors   – purple, white, and gold

I then gave a bit of women’s history – from women being hidden and anonymous to the creation of the Declaration of Sentiments in Seneca Falls in 1858, to the passage of the 19th Amendment giving women the vote in the US in 1920, to the continuing activities throughout the US today to put women fully in to the US Constitution through the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA).

I then, like Michele, called on the public, to advocate for passage of the ERA both at the state level and at the national level.  FYI, here in Pennsylvania, on May 18, 1971, we became the 4th or 5th state in the country to create a state-level ERA (Virginia also created their state ERA in 1971, but I can’t find the actual date of ratification) and we were the 21st state to ratify the federal ERA on September 27, 1972.  Currently, 35 of 38 states have ratified the federal ERA.

02-2016 Women's History Month CC Proclamation IMG_8935

Joanne Tosti-Vasey (l) presenting information on the history of the Equal Rights Amendment

For more information on the ERA and the two routes of activism to full ratification, go to Equal Rights Amendment: Unfinished Business for the Constitution.

Once our presentations giving voice to women’s history in the US and here in Centre County, we were presented with the “County of Centre Proclamation Number 7 of 2016:

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Women’s History Month Proclamation by Centre County PA Commissioners

Here’s the text of the proclamation:

 

WHEREAS, women of every race, class, and ethnic background have made historic contributions to the gro3wth and strength of our County in countless way; and

WHEREAS,  women have played and continue to play a critical economic, cultural, and social role in every sphere of the life of the County; and

WHEREAS, women have played a unique role throughout the history of the County, Pennsylvania and the United States in many ways; and

WHEREAS, women have and continue to, through their work, improve communities through or County; and

WHEREAS, women have been leaders, not only in securing their own rights of suffrage and equal opportunity, but also in the abolitionist mov3ment, the emancipation movement, the industrial lavor movement, the civil rights movement, and other movements, which creat4 a more fair and just society for all; and

WHEREAS, younger generations of women from all races, classes, and ethnic backgrounds will continue to contribute to our County, Commonwealth, and Country;

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED the Centre County Board of Commissioners does hereby proclaim March2016 as “Women’s History Month” and encourages the citizens of Centre County to observe with attending appropriate programs, ceremonies, activities, and to visit womenshistorymonth.gov and or local Centre County Library and Historical Museum to learn about the generations of women who have influenced or history.

ADOPTED this 22nd day of March, 2016

CENTRE COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS

Michael Pipe, Chair

Mark Higgins

Steven G. Dershem

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Proclamation Presentation: l. to r.: Mike Pipe, Mark Higgins, Joanne Tosti-Vasey, Michele Hamilton, and Steven G. Dershem

 

 

 

 

MLK Jr. and his “Family Planning — A Special and Urgent Concern” Speech

Access to Abortion Services is Part of Reproductive Justice and Civil Rights

Access to Abortion Services is Part of Reproductive Justice and Civil Rights (http://www.now.org/issues/abortion/)

This morning, the Greater Grand Rapids chapter of the National Organization posted a blog in honor of Martin Luther King’s birthday.  His birthday is actually on January 15.  But we celebrate it with a federal holiday on the Monday following January 15 each year. Their blog focuses on Dr. King’s strong support for reproductive justice as part of women’s basic civil rights.  Take a moment and read what they have to say. Meanwhile, here’s something you might not know about Dr. King.  Dr. King wrote a speech honoring Margaret Sanger in 1966. Sanger was the founder of Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PP).  Dr. King’s speech on reproductive justice was written in response to being awarded one of the four first Margaret Sanger Awards given by PP.  Since he was in jail at the time of the presentation, Coretta Scott King read his acceptance speech.  King entitled this speech,

Family Planning — A Special and Urgent Concern

Here’s what he said on family planning and its link to civil rights:

…. There is a striking kinship between our movement and Margaret Sanger’s early efforts. She, like we, saw the horrifying conditions of ghetto life. Like we, she knew that all of society is poisoned by cancerous slums. Like we, she was a direct actionist — a nonviolent resister. She was willing to accept scorn and abuse until the truth she saw was revealed to the millions. At the turn of the century she went into the slums and set up a birth control clinic, and for this deed she went to jail because she was violating an unjust law. Yet the years have justified her actions. She launched a movement which is obeying a higher law to preserve human life under humane conditions. Margaret Sanger had to commit what was then called a crime in order to enrich humanity, and today we honor her courage and vision; for without them there would have been no beginning. Our sure beginning in the struggle for equality by nonviolent direct action may not have been so resolute without the tradition established by Margaret Sanger and people like her. Negroes have no mere academic nor ordinary interest in family planning. They have a special and urgent concern….

[O]ne element in stabilizing his [sic] life would be an understanding of and easy access to the means to develop a family related in size to his community environment and to the income potential he can command.

This is not to suggest that the Negro will solve all his problems through Planned Parenthood. His problems are far more complex, encompassing economic security, education, freedom from discrimination, decent housing and access to culture. Yet if family planning is sensible it can facilitate or at least not be an obstacle to the solution of the many profound problems that plague him….

Some commentators point out that with present birth rates it will not be long before Negroes are a majority in many of the major cities of the nation. As a consequence, they can be expected to take political control, and many people are apprehensive at this prospect. Negroes do not seek political control by this means. They seek only what they are entitled to and do not wish for domination purchased at the cost of human misery. Negroes were once bred by slave owners to be sold as merchandise. They do not welcome any solution which involves population breeding as a weapon. They are instinctively sympathetic to all who offer methods that will improve their lives and offer them fair opportunity to develop and advance as all other people in our society.

For these reasons we are natural allies of those who seek to inject any form of planning in our society that enriches life and guarantees the right to exist in freedom and dignity….

ALICE PAUL – CRUSADER FOR WOMEN – JANUARY 11 BIRTHDAY

In honor of Women’s Equality Day (August 26). Alice Paul spearheaded the final long-time nationwide effort to get the 19th amendment to the US Constitution passed. And once that occurred in 1920, she wrote the Equal Rights Amendment; yet, almost a century later, it has yet to become part of the US Constitution. It’s time for women to achieve full legal equality.

King’s Dream in 2013: Interlocking Destinies

It’s been 50 years since Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC. One of his colleagues at that event was the Rev. Jessie Jackson, Sr.  Rev. Jackson has continued speaking and advocating for that dream of “uniting people on common ground across race, culture, class, gender, and belief.”  This idea of interlocking destinies was presented during his plenary speech at the National NOW Conference held in Chicago on July 5, 2013.

I was in the room during Rev. Jackson’s speech and took several video clips with my smart phone.  One of them came out clear enough to post on this blog.  So after getting back home, participating in a family reunion, and then spending a week and a half looking for a replacement car for our 253,000+ mile vehicle, I was able to upload the video and present it to you.

Video of Jessie Jackson at the 2013 National NOW Conference in Chicago, IL

The following quotes, along with the time tags are some of the best comments, IMHO, that Jessie Jackson made during this speech discussing the intersection between the women’s movement and the civil rights movement, which at 13:59 into this video, Jackson calls a “sharing of interlocking destinies.” He started off by discussing these Interlocking Destinies and shared rights.

3:10 Fifty years after the “I Have a Dream” speech, we still need the ERA [Equal Rights Amendment].

3:52 The right to vote should not be a state right. It’s a constitutional right for everyone.

4:10 Every child should have access to have access to high-quality public education.

4:20 No matter if you are in Mississippi, Maine, or in California, we live under one flag; you should have equal protection under the law.

5:52 Our goal is to learn to live together.

6:20 Civil rights cannot be another word for “black” and NOW cannot be another word for “white women.”  Black women, in big numbers, should be members of NOW now!

7:00 We must pull down the walls [of cultural resistance] that leave us in the shadow of fear…. When the walls come down, we can all grow bigger, better, stronger with greater productivity.  When the walls come down.

9:00 There’s a new South today that can have the Super Bowl, CNN, high-tech universities [showing that we are] learning to live together.  Yet…

At this point, Rev. Jackson starts talking about some of the interlocking issues of racism and sexism still present that need to be addressed in the United States:

9:56 It’s interesting to me that during the Republican Primary, in my [home] state [South Carolina] with an open primary, not one candidate went to a single school or church of the black community.  Not one! 33% black.  Not only did they not go, the media did not challenge them to go.  This instance [of the] reinforcement of apartheid was natural because it’s [still] normal.

Jackson then spends a bit of time framing these interlocking destinies and the problem of economics and access to justice.  He gave several examples of this framework.  The one that resonated with me was the one about the automobile industry, considering that my car had died the weekend before the conference and knowing that I would soon be car shopping. He said,

12:38 What does it mean that there are 21,000 automobile dealerships? 200 black-owned. Almost no women. Pepsi: one black franchise. Coke: zero. When you go get educated. You get your masters and PhD degrees. Business people, you cannot buy one of these franchises, by the way, because they were sold under the laws of perpetuity. Those that got the territories [back in the day] have the territory eternally.  So it’s not about getting on the ball field.  If you get on the ball field, there are no balls left…. Even money can’t buy them.

And finally, just as the battery in my smart phone died, he ended on a high note using history to look towards the future. He said that as in the past, we have not and can never be at loss for continuing to advocate for reform.  This is what I caught on the video as it beeped “bye-bye:”

13:59 The agenda of race and gender equality are inextricably bound.  We share interlocking destinies.  African-Americans won the right to vote in 1879 – 15th Amendment. Women in 1920 – 19th Amendment. We [finally] got the right for blacks to vote in the Deep South in 1965 [with the Voting Rights Act] while women got the right to serve on juries in 1967 – 2 years later [as a result of the US Supreme Court decision in Taylor v. Louisiana]Eighteen year olds got the right to vote in 1970; [before that] those [young people] serving in Vietnam could not vote…