Sunday, April 8, 2012

We've Come a Long Way, Baby

A hot issue
        We have come a long way but it’s taken two hundred years, the persistence of some very determined women, two World Wars, and an explosion of technological advances. after World War Two. All these have combined to place women in their present position. 
  We’ve moved from the washtub, rub board, and clothesline, to automatic washer and dryer sets, with numerous settings to control each phase of the washday chore.
  We’ve exchanged the fireplace and wood cook stove for sophisticated stoves that cook when we want, and how we want, without our oversight, although one that will stir the sauce, or turn the bacon, doesn’t seem to be on the market.
   Freezers and microwaves have changed both shopping and meal preparation time, and changed a lot of eating habits.
   In addition to all that, air conditioning has changed the kitchen from a sweatshop to a rather pleasant place for the family or guests to congregate during the meal preparation.
   Yep, all that’s nice. In fact, it’s extremely nice, but also absolutely necessary in the society that has changed as rapidly as technology. Women’s work outside the home would not be possible without the helping hands of their improved appliances and often those of their husbands. No longer “just a housewife” they were upgraded to “homemaker.” So what are they now?  

      There’s a bit of a political controversy going on that may show that they’re a mean, mad, fighting machine. To say they’re stirred up over some recent actions and opinions of our lawmakers is an understatement. They are furious. After years of struggling for recognition as persons of great capabilities, and having proved that fact time and time again, many women are insulted by laws that are being enacted that affect their personal decision-making, and even the future of their family.

      Women have long been involved in controversies over their rights. It’s a depressing issue. Is it a carry-over from our pre-historical days? The cartoonish image of a guy with a club dragging his chosen mate by the hair back to his cave comes to mind. We really have come a long way! So have the guys, thank goodness.
      Putting fun thoughts aside, today’s woman has had none of the frustrating experiences of those early women who fought so hard for women’s suffrage.  And it started while the Revolutionary War was in progress – even while leaders of the colonies were meeting to draw up the guidelines for the independent country they were hoping to become.
      Records show that a 1776 letter from Abigail Adams, written to her husband, John Adams, who was meeting with that group, made the gentle suggestion that they “remember the ladies”  in the new code of laws. She got this reply: “The men will fight the ‘despotism of the petticoat’.” This came from a man who became the first vice-president, and the man who became the second president of our country. Was this a bit of humor? Quite likely it was. In his reply he may have been using a humorous approach to disguise the harsh truth – that the women would not have equal rights in this newly formed country.

Another point of view
      Old records show that  from the beginning of our nation, women were asking for the right to vote and be allowed to shape this new nation, It was not to be. State after state denied them that right. In the 1800s, the ladies began to organize. Even so, it was a long battle. Those women who persisted in being at the forefront of the issue of women’s rights, were sneered at, arrested, jailed and fined. Why? Why did it take these activist and reformers almost 100 years to win the fight that they, like men, deserved all the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.
Imagine this:
        In the early 1870s, when  Myra Bradwell applied for admission to the Illinois state bar in accordance with that state’s law that permitted any adult of good character and sufficient training to be admitted, she was refused.
      Because she was a woman the state’s supreme court denied her admission on the grounds that “the strife of the bar would surely destroy femininity. Bradwell appealed. The U.S. Supreme Court decided it was within the power of Illinois to limit membership to the bar to men only. One Justice dissented.  Another wrote:

        “ Man is, or should be, woman's protector or defender. The         natural and proper timidity and delicacy which belongs to the female sex evidently unfits it for many of the occupations of civil life.... The paramount destiny and mission of woman are to fulfill the benign offices of wife and mother. This is the law of the Creator. And the rules of civil society must be adapted to the general constitution of things, and cannot be based on exceptional cases.”
    Our dignified and learned gentlemen of the court seemed to overlook some important facts in their ruling. Women had been doing whatever was necessary for their families since the dark ages. In the more recent history of our country they fought Indians, nursed the ill and injured, and were instrumental in establishing schools, hospitals and charitable institutions.
     Apparently the considerable strife involved in these activities did not destroy their femininity, for they continued to give birth and raise large families. No wife and mother, then or now, would classify these as a “benign” occupation. In addition to these obvious facts, many women did not have that protector the Justice spoke of.

       Finally the long battle was over. In 1920, millions of women were proud and determined to exercise their right to vote.  Ninety-two years ago!
      That’s a short history of women’s fight for equality. Our present-day laws give women the right to vote, fight, and work at whatever we’re qualified to do – although most people will agree that many jobs are filled by persons of either sex, who are far from qualified

      Today’s women are descendants of those who entered the work force en masse when WWII broke out. They worked as mechanics, painters, riveters – whatever needed doing, they did it. Those who had never dreamed of driving that wild monster of a family car, learned to do so, and learned how to keep it running, when it started acting persnickety. Remember, this was in the days of the Great Depression, and the family vehicle was a very distant relative of those of today. So were the roads.
      Then, sadly, with thousands of men killed in that war, a large number of women continued to use their new skills to support themselves and their families. So the die was cast. Women entered many fields. They became laborers, business owners, members of Congress, Governors and diplomats. They have proven they deserved that right to vote and were most capable of assuming the rights and responsibilities of citizenship that their predecessors fought for.

      So here we are in 2012, and another battle is brewing. With all the advances that have been made, women are aghast and infuriated by recent laws or proposed laws that limit their right to decide what course of action is best for them and their families. These issues are being brought forth across the nation, often promoted by legislators and candidates, who have never experienced or thought deeply about the consequences of the laws they are endorsing. 
      It has become a very emotional time for many people. Not only for women. Religion, health, financial situations, and the freedom to direct one’s personal life, are all involved. In one way or another, the effects of these laws will be widespread and touch the lives of almost everyone.

Think carefully in the coming months. Encourage our Leaders and the Wannabes to consider very carefully the results of all they promote, and let’s hope for some good old
common sense decisions

Certainly the Voters need to exercise theirs.