Thursday, February 03, 2005

Time Travel

When one looks back over the last few hundred years of our country's existence, it is hard not to see what progress we have made in the area of women's rights. Yet today, there are those in power in Washington, and elsewhere in the country, who feel that women have been given too much freedom and something must be done about this ASAP.

At the dawn of our founding, Abigail Smith Adams became a spokesperson, for the women of her day, when she called upon her husband to "...remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors." Abigail certainly planted the first seeds for women's rights, although we cannot see any immediate changes, she was certainly one of the first women to question women's rights in a free society.

From that year of 1776 until 1848, when the first Women's Rights Convention was held at Seneca Falls, New York, there were very stereotypical views, prevalent across society, of women's and men's roles in society. Historians have even given a name to this era..."The Cult of Domesticity."

At Seneca Falls, many signed the "Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions", which had set forth women's goals in a developing woment's movement. From this point on such meetings were held on a regular basis. It was at one such meeting that we hear from Sojourner Truth. In 1851, at one such meeting in Akron, Ohio, the former slave, held her audience spellbound with her speech "Ain't I a Woman?" Not only was this a question to her white female audience but rather to society in general, still locked in the throes of slavery.

In 1859 the invention of vulcanized rubber finally made the condom a reliable form of birth control. Even though the birth rate had steadily been declining over the last century, women still generally raised 3 to 4 children. But again, methods of birth control, though much more readily available to women in the middle and upper classes of American Society, the poor, a vast majority of whom were recent immigrants and those in rural areas or large city ghetto areas, were still at the mercy of unwanted pregnancies and back alley abortionists.

Although the Civil War interrupted most of the women's movement activities, it acted as a training ground for women who were called upon to take up organizational roles and the skills they acquired served them well into the next century. And as more and more women had the benefits of a college education, the ranks of social workers swelled, bringing help tot hose less educated and without resources.

In 1866 Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, two women in the vanguard of the women's rights movement formed the American Equal Rights Association, which was inclusive of both black and white women and men. They present a petititon to Congress, demanding the right to vote for women. It would take another 50 + years for this to finally become a reality, because in 1868, the fourteenth Amendment is ratified and describes all citizen voters as "male."

From this point on, into the beginning of the 20th century the Women's Movement was fraught with upset; from the arrest of Susan B. Anthony for her attempt to vote, the fracturing of the Women's Movement into two groups (NAWSA and AWSA), and the start of non violent protests. From all this history and struggle, emerged the 19th Amendment, finally giving women a voice in the Republic!

Now, we are faced with a bizarre throwback to the days of Neanderthal, an administration which couches it's agenda in the words "Family Values". They wish to sweep all this progress and years of struggle under the carpet. Hidden within those words "Family Values", lurk dark and evil forces. Would men tolerate this debate over their rights? Absolutely not. Would men tolerate the overturning of the male equivalent of a Roe v. Wade? You bet they would not!

Perhaps it is time for us to heed the words of Abigail Smith Adams, when she wrote to her husband John, ..."If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation."

WOMEN! (and men so inclined...) TO THE BARRICADES!