Burned Yet Set Free
The following is a guest post by Cecilia O’Brien on the occasion of the 85th anniversary of the 19th ammendment allowing women the vote and it's continued importance today. Thank you Cecilia.
August 26, 2005 - is exactly 85 years since the passage of the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution allowing Women the right to vote in our "Free" country. The year was 1920 and believe it or not, there were a lot of things awry before the bubble burst the bank and stock market. Some things the brave women suffragettes endured could make men who fought to organize a Union blush. The terror put upon women in locked jail cells and the disrespect shown women in public over this basic request for equal rights was absurd for that particular time in history.
How ironic that Henry Burn, a southern politician, listened to his own mother and cast the deciding vote for Tennessee to become the 36th State to ratify the Amendment making the right to vote and hold elected office legal for the female gender. What did Mr. Burn get for his actions? Accolades and Recognition showered upon him? Not at all. Immediately after the vote was cast, a crowd of Tennessee State legislators, all MALE of course, chased him and heckled him all the way to the top floor window ledge, threatening to throw him to the street below. Men were convinced that women were not ready for the responsibility to vote and hold office. Standard male viewpoints in a chauvinistic eyeglass could not see beyond women suckling their babies, cooking meals, and attending church let alone working, holding office, or having the time or desire to vote. Remember those days were before infant baby formula when breast feeding was the norm and often used by men as an exclusion of women from any social or work activity.
American Corporate Culture continues to resist any ground gained by women. The small advances females make holding elected office and management positions are all hard fought. My observation as a female is that the "good old boy" network is alive today despite the progress made since my birth. However, young girls really don't think about suffrage and history but they do get their college education and seem more likely to set goals that include exciting careers not imagined by women holding posters walking in front of President Wilson's White House.
Today's news events on Capitol Hill are an illustration of what the right to vote can and has done and how vitally important voting is to our society. George Bush recently failed to take his wife Laura's advice, and appoint a woman to succeed Sandra Day O'Connor. Instead, today he has allowed a woman to be hired for the first time ever to be head chef of the White House. Think of the irony here for George Bush. Mr. Bush continues to say he wants to advance the visibility and cause of women and offer opportunity to females in our land and in Iraq. So Mr. Bush appoints a man who defines himself as a "Strict Constructionist" when it comes to interpretation of the Constitution. Ok kids, what that means is Mr. Roberts takes the Constitutional text at its literal meaning at the time it was written. So let's think a minute about that concept. John Roberts, Bush's choice for replacement to O'Connor would have looked at our constitution that did not allow women to vote in 1920 and said that's the way it should stay. Roberts does not subscribe to the fact the authors wrote the Constitution to encourage and allow amendments knowing that they would not be alive forever and that a changing society would need the law to flex and grow with it.
Not only did Women loose a female view and voice on some issues of record with O’Connor leaving the Supreme Court but we loose more ground on any future issues in a changing society with John Roberts on the bench. Mr. Roberts will not advance anything yet hold still and stagnant by his own admission. The root cause of this irony is the fact that George Bush was appointed to his reserved seat in 2000 by our Supreme Court with John Roberts leading the case for this action. The big bonus for Roberts’ legal efforts is this appointment to oversee the highest law in the land and that is powerful. America continues to grow and change despite all of the bad decisions.
Women of all ages need to embrace their new right to vote. Hopefully the generations after me will pay attention to the last 5 or 6 years of disappointments for females in our country by becoming more actively engaged. Women take life one step at a time running circles around most men because we must. Females are often expected to perform at not just 100% but 150% to get the job and prove ourselves, many times balancing children and a home and family. Most males don't work two jobs yet are not held to this high standard as the norm.
Women today need to find the time between multi-tasking and running household and career to vote and pay attention to issues of importance so that the suffering and fighting by ladies long ago is not wasted. When American women have it right, they will truly inspire the oppressed women of the Middle East to aspire to our level of independence.