Iraqi women went to the polls and were on the ballot on March 7, 2010. American women were granted the right to vote in 1920. March is women’s history month. I call it her story month. We celebrate our history, our successes and look forward to our future. While much has been gained, there’s still so much more to do. President Obama in noting March as women’s history month stated we “must correct persisting inequities” facing women in every sphere.
Since receiving the vote in 1920, we’ve seen the first woman run for democratic nomination as president of the US. No, it was not Hillary Clinton. It was Shirley Chisholm (D. NY). Congresswoman Chisholm (D. NY) was the first woman to run for the democratic nomination as President of the US. She was also the first African American woman elected to Congress. In 1972, she became the first African American candidate for president. In doing so, she blazed the trail for Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Shirley Chisholm ran on the platform of “unbought and unbossed.” We’ve seen three female US Secretaries of State since 1920. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in 1997 paved the way for Secretaries Condoleeza Rice and now Hillary Clinton. Notably, today, Congresswoman and Speaker Nancy Pelosi became the first woman to lead a major party in Congress. While these are notable gains in our history, woman still make up only 17% of Congress. African American women and minorities fare even worse. African American women still make up only 4% when combined with Hispanic and Asian women.
The empowerment of women is as lawmakers. This is where we change the fabric of our society. Yet, many women do not seek elective office. We need more organizations and PAC’s like Emily’s List to make it easier for women to seek and win elective office. Emily’s List helped to elect Senator Barbara Mikulski, the first democratic woman elected to the US Senate. We need more Barbara Mikulski’s. Without more elected women legislators, local and national, we serve to lose some of the gains already won.
The right to abortion is being practically written out of the proposed health care bill. It’s hanging in there by a thin thread. As women gained ground in college acceptance, men are now taking away some of those gains. After decades of making gains towards sexual equities in education, a recent investigation reveals that colleges may be favoring men by admitting them at higher rates to preserve a male female ratio. A civil rights investigation has been convened to see if discrimination against women in higher education is creeping up in colleges across America. Economically, women are still disadvantaged by earning only 78 cents for every dollar a man earns. In the area of health care, more women are disadvantaged without health care. Yet, we cannot pass a health care bill.
The evolution of women’s rights is an ongoing process. We must not be satisfied with our success. We must press for higher heights in all areas. We must not lose the ground already won. We must set the example for women worldwide.
Women, what is your story?