Especially if you’re a woman. But she changed it for everyone, man, woman, child.
It’s so difficult, even in 2014, to imagine that in my grandmothers’ day, and even around the time my mother was born, women in this country couldn’t vote. They could not vote. It’s such a shocking idea that I have to repeat it to even try and grasp it.
That means more than no voice in government. Women were completely dependent on men, in almost all ways. A woman couldn’t own property without a man’s co-signature. That car you drive? Better get Daddy to sign for it.
My mother was around then? This was just a generation away from me? I mean, the implications to our lives . . .
In the 1910s and for the better part of the last century, Alice Paul campaigned tirelessly for women’s rights. Paul was the main leader and strategist, who along with Lucy Burns and others fought for the Nineteenth Amendment to the US Constitution, which prohibits gender discrimination as per the right to vote.
They fought tirelessly, organizing, marching, and as often happens with activists, were jailed for months in inhumane conditions. The amendment finally passed in 1920.
But that wasn’t all she did. After the passage, Paul and the National Women’s Party fought for the Equal Rights Amendment, which would secure constitutional rights and equality for all women. And even though it received 35 of the 38 necessary state ratifications, that bill hasn’t passed to this day.
Think it doesn’t matter to you? Women’s earnings were 78.3 percent of men’s in 2013, according to the Census statistics.
But if Paul and her crew hadn’t fought so hard for the right to vote, all of this would be moot.
It’s funny how subversive some groups can be, and more chilling, how effective, in shaping people’s minds. Feminism has become a four-letter word, and most young women shy far away from it. Now it denotes a man-hater, a radical communist, or any litany of negative appellations.
I am neither, and I’m a Feminist to the core. Because it means what it’s always meant, in truth—someone who hearkens to fairness between the sexes. That my work is as valuable as a man’s (and yes, we still see this inequality in publishing), dollar for dollar.
In 2004, a group of us attended the March for Women’s Lives in DC. Over one million of us marched. And contrary to what some religious organizations labeled us, we were not radical communists, we didn’t burn our bras, we weren’t out there with knives trying to castrate men.
These were your daughters, your sisters, your mothers, your grandmothers. Many of whom remembered the horrors before Roe v. Wade. Our group consisted of me, my teenage niece, my close friend and her teenage daughter, and my minister. Yup, my minister.
As the radicals on the right continue to paint us as abortion crazed, that’s of course not what this march was about. That’s not what a Woman’s Right to Choose is about. It’s not about being pro- or anti- abortion. It’s about ensuring that reproductive freedom is guaranteed in law as a fundamental right.
In other words, ensuring that a woman has the jurisdiction over her own body. Period.
And it all came back to our right to vote. Finally.
Before that march, we attended a rally with the late Texas Governor Ann Richards, along with Attorney Sara Weddington, the lawyer in the Roe v. Wade case, and the delightfully acerbic Molly Ivins. Sara said one of the reasons she got into activist law, was that once she had graduated from law school, mind you, and tried to buy a house in 1960s Austin, by law she couldn’t borrow the money without a male relative’s signature. This was in the sixties! I was alive then!
It all does still trail back to Alice Paul. A great film on the endeavors of those historical women, Iron Jawed Angels is still available.
It changed my life. Will it change yours?