Sunday, August 23, 2009

Happy Re-birthday to all of us

A new birth of freedom

Quite a few bricks had to drop before the 19th Amendment became law on August 26, 1920

In 1878, a constitutional amendment was proposed that provided "The right of citizens to vote shall not be abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex." This same amendment would be introduced in every session of Congress for the next 41 years.

In May, 1919, the necessary two-thirds vote in favor of the women suffrage amendment was finally mustered in Congress, and the proposed amendment was sent to the states for ratification. By July 1920, with a number of primarily southern states adamantly opposed to the amendment, it all came down to Tennessee. It appeared that the amendment might fail by one vote in the Tennessee house, but twenty-four-year-old Harry Burns surprised observers by casting the deciding vote for ratification. At the time of his vote, Burns had in his pocket a letter he had received from his mother urging him, "Don't forget to be a good boy" and "vote for suffrage." Women had finally won the vote.

Since that time, the bricks that were thrown at women and their supporters increased in frequency and intensity. Despite this many women have put themselves out there and become powerful and influential, always facing the wrath of a society that resents and resists their claim to equality.

There are many people that were born on August 26th besides me; some even hold this day with the awe and reverence that I do because of the sacrifices of the women who came before me, most of whom never lived to see the results of their travail.

In a larger sense, August 26th is every woman's birthday. "... A new birth of freedom", such as Lincoln celebrated in his Gettysburg Address. So on August 26th, I celebrate everywoman's re-birth and thank Susan B. Anthony, for whom the Amendment was named, and all the other women who struggled by her side to give us such a great gift. For all their names and what they did, please see the timeline here:

In the years following the passage of that Amendment, those of us that had to struggle with the increasing sexism and denial of human rights are either dead or in our 80's and 90's+ - soon to shuffle off the planet. Despite the qualifications and deeds of women over the years, not one of our founding mothers has been honored with the public recognition given to men.

There is still no calendar date with a holiday in honor of a woman. Efforts have been made to make the date the 19th Amendment passed a Holiday in tribute to Susan B., OUR great emancipator, but to no avail. We all watched as the most qualified presidential candidate with the most votes lost because of her gender and the continued misogyny of the country, its media and the denial of many women to support their own and their sister's progress.

All around us are women who still try to tear down our advances in the recognition of our personhood, who aid and abet misogyny and allow/protect the use of harmful and hurtful words that demean women.

The terrific people that formed Anthony's Army opened the gates allowing all the women who came later to fight job discrimination; made it possible for girls and women to have an education and play sports; to woman the shelters for battered women; to make us all aware of our abilities and our potential - the list goes on.

Susan et al would have been so proud of all the women who continued their struggle; women that didn't just settle for second class citizenship - women who continued to push the boundaries with the all consuming goal of equal, civil and reproductive rights, and respect for all who follow after them.

Women gained the vote in 1920 after 72 years
of the LARGEST civil rights movement
in the HISTORY of the world.
What are we going to do with it now?