In nearly 6000 years of recorded human history, women have made progress in equal rights only in the last 200 years. In America, most of it in the last 60. Here’s a short tour of firsts.
Medicine: Though Elizabeth Blackwell applied for admission to every medical college in Philadelphia and New York City, all twenty nine schools rejected her. In January, 1849, at the age of 28, she received her medical degree, at the top of her class.
Voting: The 19th Amendment to the Constitution, passed by Congress June 4, 1919, and ratified on August 18, 1920, granted women the right to vote. Just 100 years ago! It’s the only right shared by women globally.
Military: The Women’s Armed Services Integration Act of 1948 grants women permanent status in the Regular and Reserve forces of the Army, Navy and Marine Corps as well as in the newly created Air Force. Seventy-one years later – June 2019 – the first woman assumed command of an infantry division of the US army.
Contraception: In 1960, the pill was approved for use as a contraceptive. Even so, the pill was illegal in some states and could be prescribed only to married women for purposes of family planning. Those opposed said oral contraceptives were immoral, promoted prostitution, and were tantamount to abortion. It wasn’t until several years later that birth control was approved for use by all women, regardless of marital status.
Civil Rights: The 1964 Civil Rights Act: an amendment made it illegal to discriminate on the basis of gender as well as race.
Sports: 1972 When Title IX was passed there were fewer than 32,000 women competing in intercollegiate athletics. Today more than 110,000 women participate in college sports; the number of female athletes in high school has increased from about 300,000 to 2.13 million.
Juries: It wasn’t until 1974 that women could serve on juries in all 50 states
Credit: A 1974 law allowed women to have credit in their own name rather than through their husbands or fathers.
ERA – The Equal Rights Amendment
“Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”
The constitutional amendment has been fought for since 1923. In 1971, it was approved by the US House of Representatives; five months later by the US Senate, thus submitting the ERA to the state legislatures for ratification.
Three-quarters of the States – 38 – are needed to ratify it. The ERA fell three states short by its 1982 deadline, and the deadline has been extended twice. Ratification is now one state short. The holdouts are NV, AZ, MO, and ALL the southern states, the same ones legislating against abortion and access to birth control.
We have a herstory of solitary struggles, big movements, legal and legislative wrangling, and witchy undercutting by women who imagine they have privilege.
Why is HALF the population still disenfranchised from equal pay, control of reproductive capacity, and freedom from harassment and violence – in 21st century?
All of us – women and men – have to fight this battle together. After millennia, how many more decades will it take to get it right?
Every day we help women rise up, no matter the laws that keep them “in their place.” Support the work of WCI!