Monday, March 13, 2017

International Womens Month

International Womens Day was Wednesday, March 8, 2017, but the whole month is a good time to reflect on women, women's rights, and progress we have and have not made towards the equal rights and treatment of women.

Did you know? As late as the mid 1800s....

  • Married women were legally dead in the eyes of the law
  • Women were not allowed to vote
  • Women had to submit to laws when they had no voice in their formation
  • Married women had no property rights
  • Husbands had legal power over and responsibility for their wives to the extent that they could imprison or beat them with impunity
  • Divorce and child custody laws favored men, giving no rights to women
  • Women had to pay property taxes although they had no representation in the levying of these taxes
  • Most occupations were closed to women and when women did work they were paid only a fraction of what men earned
  • Women were not allowed to enter professions such as medicine or law
  • Women had no means to gain an education since no college or university would accept women students
  • With only a few exceptions, women were not allowed to participate in the affairs of the church
  • Women were robbed of their self-confidence and self-respect, and were made totally dependent on men
  •         -Elizabeth Cady Stanton, 1848

    The question of whether women were citizens of the United States is subject to discussion, since their rights clearly were not the same as men and they did not have the right to vote until 1920.
    Another argument against expansion of citizenship rights has been that “natural law” or “religious law” should supersede claims for political rights. Women, it was argued through the early 20th century, should not be given the right to vote because it was seen as “unnatural” and against the intentions of God. One young woman worker on strike during the winter of 1909-10 for higher pay and safer working conditions was arrested and dragged before a judge who, sentencing her to jail time, informed her that she was “on strike against God and Nature.” Similar arguments have been made more recently against extending employment and marriage rights to gay people.
    -Anneliese Orleck, Professor of History, Dartmouth College

    • Women have served in the military in countries all over the world, defending their countries alongside men.
    • Currently about 15% of all people serving in our military, or more than 165,000, are women.
    • Here are some facts about women in the United States military:
    In case you thought the struggle for women was over many years ago, consider:
    In the 1970s, which is not even 50 years ago:
    • Women still were not paid the same for men doing the exact same job. Why? The excuse was, men were usually the primary breadwinner in the family and thus merited more pay.
    • Women were expected to wear dresses to work. Once there was a slight relaxation of this common expectation, pants could be worn, but only in the form of a pants suit with a particular type of blouse. The clothing of a woman was much more important than that of a man.
    • Even women in more professional careers were expected to make coffee for meetings simply because they were women. 
    • If a woman got married, she was expected to quit her job to stay home and run her household.
    • If a woman stayed working after marriage, she was certainly expected to quit her job once she became pregnant. It was assumed she would be staying home with her child.
    • Women who returned to work after having a baby, having someone else care for the child, were looked down upon.
    • If a woman's husband was offered a job in another city, it was assumed she would then be leaving with him: There was no discussion about what she wanted or whether it was good for her career.

    • Women in traditionally male careers were not to be trusted, such as a woman doctor, attorney, engineer. There was thoughts of: Why get a degree when you're just going to get married and stay home anyway? In fact, even completing a high school diploma was considered a waste for girls until the 1950s or so.
    • In some jobs, the employer could (and did) give a pregnant woman different duties so that she wouldn't be seen by the public once she started to 'show.'
    • Also in terms of pregnancy, young women who became pregnant outside of marriage were often sent away to have their babies and give them up; friends were told the girl had gone on a trip or to live with someone several states away for a while, and in some cases their parents disowned them altogether, 'kicked them out.' There was no punishment for the father of the baby.
    • Girls wore dresses to school, not pants and certainly not jeans.
    • Protests were common, with women demanding equal pay and respect. But women who participated were thought of as radical.
    • Women who voiced their opinions, whether at home, at work, or in public, were 'troublemakers.'
    The U.S. Dept of Labor statistics on women in the workforce may surprise you:


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