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“Our Time Is Now”: We Are Waiting No More, Ladies: From Abigail to Hillary

We are ladies in waiting no more, gentlemen. Tired of traveling third class to the revolution.

Heroines Harriet Tubman, Lucretia Mott, Alice Paul and Eleanor Roosevelt on the money herald the start of something big.

And by we I mean American women here now in 2016, voters from 18 to 98. Heck, count girls and babies; they inherit the new world being born and they can campaign, too. April brings Hillary Clinton as the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee.

How sweet it is. A victory from sea to shining sea. Long time coming.

Dial back to 2008, the bittersweet spring when Clinton lost to Barack Obama in the Democratic primary, though she was far better seasoned. But who said the world was fair? Witnessing an American president break the color barrier one wintry day at high noon was breathtaking.

To be clear, Obama’s victory over Clinton turned a page in our oldest story. The historical theme is clear. Women are often expected to wait for their rights. Wait their turn for political power.

In 1776, Abigail Adams wrote to husband John a famous letter saying, “Remember the ladies” in the new republic. Did he listen to her? No. Though she warned, ladies might “foment a rebellion.”

In Philadelphia in 1776, Thomas Jefferson and the Declaration of Independence signers in that hall completely cut us out of their revolution’s documents. “All men are created equal” means what it says. Fourscore and seven years later, Abraham Lincoln expanded the phrase to mean black men. The founding fathers didn’t remember us.

As the Broadway hit musical, “Hamilton,” puts it, we weren’t in the room where it happened. Only one man in the Revolutionary generation believed in the rights of women: the truly talented Aaron Burr, Jefferson’s vice president. The man who dueled and slew Hamilton at sunrise on July 11, 1804. If not for the tragic duel, Burr might have become president and our struggle, our story, might have been different. Nobody knows.

The “Negro’s Hour” episode, however, could not be clearer. After working for the abolition of slavery for 30 years (1833-1863) women in the anti-slavery movement also created the women’s rights movement in 1848.

The first convention was held in Seneca Fall, New York, now a national historic site. It is to women what Philadelphia in 1776 was for men. Lucretia Mott, the Philadelphia Quaker champion of rights for slaves and women, was the main speaker. Frederick Douglass, abolitionist orator and publisher, was among hundreds in the throng. He urged Mott to make the vote one of the demands.

Hillary Clinton has visited Seneca Falls, as first lady and as senator from New York. She’s pretty perfect to take the past to present and future. The sisterhood’s fight for our rights is the march she’s on — and it’s not over.

Not Mott, not Susan B. Anthony, nor Elizabeth Cady Stanton — the three depicted in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda suffrage statue — lived to see the day women won the vote.

Here is where the earth shattered: In 1865, the Civil War’s political settlement extended voting rights and citizenship to black men only, excluding women.

The cut happened after women had worked for abolition and their own rights together. Republicans told women to wait, this was the “Negro’s Hour.” (Except Lincoln, who had died.) Even great Douglass sided with that political refrain.

The vote is the passport to democracy. Trouble was, history’s major change trains run only so often, and you have to catch one if you can. Here was the chance.

Suffrage took a long time coming, from 1865 to 1920. That’s two generations. The vote was never given, but taken over years from a grudging Southerner with three daughters — Woodrow Wilson.

Spirited Alice Paul changed the game by moving it from private to public, out on the streets of Washington. In vivid vigils and parades, “go ahead, arrest us,” was the template of her nonviolent resistance — and the police did, in the public eye. So much for ladylike. Like Mott, Paul was a “birthright” Quaker. She arrested national attention and sympathy for suffrage.

Anna Quindlen, the luminous novelist and journalist, stated that since serving as secretary of state since 2008, Clinton’s vast experience puts her at the top of the class of candidates — ever.

Our time is now. Ladies, we are waiting no more. There’s a train to catch to Philadelphia in July.


By: Jamie Stiehm, The National Memo, April 29, 2016

April 30, 2016 Posted by | American Women, Hillary Clinton, Womens Rights | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“100 Years Of Women’s Rights”: Today’s War On Women Carries Profound Implications For The Future

Sunday, March 3 will mark the 100-year anniversary of the Woman Suffrage March on Washington by brave women demanding the right to vote. The fight for women’s rights didn’t begin in 1913; in fact, the movement had over 50 years of history prior to this momentous event led by the National American Woman Suffrage Association.

Two prominent women in American history—Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton—were introduced by abolitionists William Lloyd Garrison and George Thompson in 1851 during an anti-slavery gathering in Seneca Falls, and from there they began their friendship and partnership. At the Seneca Falls Conference in 1848, Stanton wrote in The Declaration of Sentiments, “The history of mankind is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations on the part of man toward woman, having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over her. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world. He has never permitted her to exercise her inalienable right to the elective franchise. He has compelled her to submit to laws, in the formation of which she had no voice…”

In letters between Stanton and Anthony, Stanton described the challenges she faced in her personal life. Women’s suffrage weighed on these women; the political issue affected their everyday lives, and family and friends began opposing the movement. Nothing would stop them from moving ahead two decades to the founding of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, aimed at promoting amendments to the Constitution that would ultimately give women the right to vote.

On March 3, 1913, led by American suffragist activists Alice Paul and Lucy Burns, men and women from across the country met in Washington, D.C. to march down Pennsylvania Avenue in support of women’s rights. Taking place the day before President Wilson’s inauguration, this historic march and subsequent demonstrations across the country succeeded in bringing national publicity to the issue through protests and speeches, proving that women deserved an equal place in politics. But they faced angry opposition from a faction of Americans – mostly but not all male — who resisted social progress for women. What came of this opposition was an all-out war on feminism.

Women marching in the Washington parade were physically assaulted, spit on, hit, and heckled by spectators. Accounts detailed police ignoring edicts from Major Richard Sylvester, D.C.’s Chief of Police, who gave orders to protect those marching. Men who supported the movement were targeted as well. A report from Major General Anson Mills, who marched with some of his men, said in a New York Times article, “Crowds of hoodlums sneered at my division in the parade and made insulting remarks. The police made no effort to rebuke them. They were ruffians whom I had never seen before and who seemed to be strangers. I think they were Baltimore hoodlums. They charged us with being henpecked. They indicated their determination to send us home by breaking up the parade. The crowd was lolous [sic] and made vicious attempts to break up the ranks of the marchers, with practically no interference from the police.”

A separate article featured in the Times from March 4, 1913 details, “At times fighting its way, the suffrage procession passed through a narrow channel with walls of spectators on either side. They effect of the parade was spoiled, the marchers were greatly inconvenienced, and at times were subjected to insult and indignity. Many persons were injured. The leaders of the suffragists are very indignant, and their sentiments are shared by many members of Congress. Many men here who do not believe in the suffrage cause say that the treatment given to those who marched yesterday was an insult to American womanhood and a disgrace to the Capital City of the Nation.”

From groups who resisted the movement came unrelenting assaults on women’s femininity—painting them as either lesbians or unattractive, lonely women incapable of finding husbands. Such misogynist propaganda infiltrated the news, portraying suffragists completely unfairly. Opponents claimed that women should remain out of politics and find a man to speak for them, since allowing women into the political process would be detrimental to the state.

Despite the fear-mongering, proponents of woman’s suffrage were able to draw the attention of members of Congress, and with the support of President Wilson gained momentum. Susan B. Anthony would never see the result of her efforts, but the Nineteenth Amendment, drafted by her and Stanton, was finally ratified in 1920.

From Seneca Falls to the first National Women’s Rights Convention in Worcester, MA, to the founding of the National American Woman Suffrage Association by Anthony and Stanton, women’s rights have come a long way. Yet today women’s issues are still hotly debated—abortion, access to birth control, the Violence Against Women Act (which finally passed in the House on Thursday)—with profound implications for the future of women in the United States.


By: Allison Brito, The National Memo, February 28, 2013

March 3, 2013 Posted by | War On Women, Womens Rights | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Republican Hostile Challenge To Women”: Romney, Santorum, And Gingrich Need A Lesson In Women’s History

Disaffected women are packing up to flee the Republican Party in the wake of the War on Women, The Washington Post reported on its front page. Meanwhile, President Obama’s re-election campaign is sending out a massive signal to energize pro-choice women and welcome them into the Democratic Party, The New York Times said on its Sunday front page.

Good, good. Women are clearly the critical constituency to choose the next president. That’s just what the Republican Party deserves for its hostile challenge to women and girls making their own decisions about their own lives. Sometimes you wonder if Republican candidates know that women actually have the right to vote. Let’s face it, neither Mitt, Rick, nor Newt is exactly a woman’s man. They are out-and-out men’s men.

Has former Gov. Mitt Romney or former Sen. Rick Santorum or former House Speaker Newt Gingrich ever read Virginia Woolf? Do they even know who Margaret Sanger is? What about the spitfire Quaker Alice Paul? She led the women suffrage movement to victory over seven or more years of struggle. This happened in 1920, like 92 years ago, gentlemen. Paul took women’s suffrage public, to the streets and to the White House gates, where the strategy was to remind President Woodrow Wilson what the right thing to do was. Paul and other suffragettes were arrested, abused, and force fed in jail. Nothing would stop them until women won the right to citizenship in our democracy.

Note: women suffrage was not given; it was taken. We women today should study pages from Paul’s book on civil disobedience, especially if the War on Women continues to close in on overturning Roe v. Wade, the cornerstone Supreme Court decision that makes reproductive rights—human rights—legal and private.

Margaret Sanger brought you and me birth control. She made up the useful phrase in the interest of saving women’s lives. As a nurse, she was outraged to see young married immigrants on the Lower East Side dying in childbirth or from botched abortions. The death of Sadie Sachs was the catalyst, she said, a 28-year-old mother who begged a doctor to tell her how to prevent another pregnancy. “Well, it can’t be done,” he answered. “I’ll tell you the only thing to do….Tell Jake to sleep on the roof.”

Months after witnessing that predicament, Sanger answered a call to the Sachs home, where she found Sadie Sachs on her deathbed, surrounded by a scene of her weeping family.

Sanger’s cause came from that personal encounter. “The sun came up and threw its reflection over the house tops. It was the dawn of a new day in my life,” she declared. “I would tell the world what was going on in the lives of these poor women.” In 1916, she opened a women’s health clinic in Brooklyn and founded the organization that became Planned Parenthood, the gleam in the eye of one spirited, determined woman. Like Roe v. Wade, it has been besieged lately, as another front in the War on Women.

Sanger’s life is an incredible mirror of her times, especially the free-thinking, defiant mood of Roaring ’20s. Like her contemporary Paul, she too got arrested and spent time in jail in 1917. Under a court order not to give a public speech, she gagged herself and stood next to the eminent historian and Harvard professor Arthur Schlesinger, Sr. as he read her words. She traveled the world to seek ways of safe birth control. Unfortunately, she subscribed to an intellectual trend called eugenics (before the Nazi era.)

Paul and Sanger would ask, what’s wrong with us, defending what’s already been done? If I were to interview them today, they would be eager to know what progress women have made. And what would I tell them—President Clinton’s Family and Medical Leave Act?

They might say to me that their endeavors went beyond the ballot and women’s health. These were vehicles to empower women to speak with their own voices and to determine their own destinies to make this more truly a democracy.

Virginia Woolf, the brilliant English novelist, essayist, and diarist, created the feminist metaphor of a room of one’s own in a manifesto on furthering women’s liberties in life. She lived in the same age as Sanger and Paul. Such a shame these three never met.

Getting back to Romney, Santorum, and Gingrich, well might we ask how much room there is for women in their Americas.

By: Jamie Stiehm, U. S. News and World Report, March 13, 2012

March 14, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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