19th Amendment: We Stand on the Shoulders of Many
August 18 marked the 95rd anniversary of the passage of the 19th amendment to the constitution that granted women the right to vote. Less than a century ago, we could not vote. An untold number of women spent 70 years of struggle and committed their lives to obtain women the rights that men enjoyed from the birth of our country.
The first woman’s rights convention was held in Seneca Falls, New York in 1848.
The movie, “Iron Jawed Angels,” chronicles the immense sacrifice and struggle women experienced for all of us today. This film is based on the true story of Alice Paul and Lucy Burns who the press bestowed the name, “Iron Jawed Angels.” These powerful women’s rights activists were committed to engage in a hunger strike until all women were given the right to vote. Alice Paul and Lucy Burns were arrested and jailed. When these women refused to eat the guards force-fed the “Iron Jawed Angels,” by forcing horrendous metal clamps on their jaws and shoving tubes down their throats to force feed them.
We stand on the shoulders of our foremothers. I was born into a Roman Catholic family and attended a Catholic school. Early in my life I learned about committed, powerful, and brilliant women called saints. These women faced incredibly difficult circumstances and sacrifices, to say the least, as they confronted injustice, poverty and ignorance while giving birth to new theologies of love and power into our world. These bold women were my “sheroes,” as I grew up in a world that I felt dishonored and disrespected women as equal participants in our world.
These foremothers graced me with a powerful charge to carry on the struggle of women’s equality in all facets of life. We won the struggle for women to have the right for equal credit reporting finally got passed with the Equal Credit Opportunity Act in 1974. In the 1977, I attended the International Woman’s year in Houston Texas where we discussed challenges women faced globally. During the 1980’s we worked tirelessly to pass the Equal Rights Amendment only to see it narrowly defeated. We fought for the right for women for an equal education and that included sports. I became infected with a passion for speaking up[ against injustice and enjoyed the brilliant committed women I met along the way. We even traveled to Juarez, Mexico, one of the most dangerous cities in the world, to protest against the slaughter of over a thousand women occurring over many years. Our two daughters joined me in woman’s social justice cause across the nation since they were 3 years old. What a glorious journey carrying on the legacy we have inherited from our foremothers.
I hope this week you talk with your daughters, sons and others about the rich history of woman’s growth that lead to our legal status today. Please let me know your experiences and thoughts during this week of reflection on our long journey to freedom.