Tag Archives: Women’s History

Women’s Equality Day: The Journey Continues

The following is written by Toni Zimmer, President, League of Women Voters of New Jersey.

“We ask justice, we ask equality, we ask that all the civil and political rights that belong to citizens of the United States, be guaranteed to us and our daughters forever.” – Susan B. Anthony, Declaration of Rights for Women, July 1876

Today we celebrate Women’s Equality Day, the historic anniversary of August 26, 1920, when the 19th Amendment was ratified giving American women the right to vote. But please, don’t pop those champagne corks just yet – there is no denying that there is still so much more to be done, as well as undone.

Once again, women find themselves in a position where their right to make personal health care choices is being severely compromised and, in some cases, absolutely denied. In a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling, the court stated that corporations with religious beliefs that condemn the use of contraceptives are exempt from covering the cost of contraceptives to employees under their health care plans. We must continue to stand up for our rights to have control over how we choose to manage our own personal health care needs.

One of the most egregious decisions handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court came to us last year, when it struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. This decision gave nine states, mostly in the South, the ability to change their election laws without advance federal clearance. Section 4 was created to determine which states would need approval from the Justice Department or a federal court to make major or minor changes to voting procedures, such as relocating polling places or redrawing electoral districts. We applaud the vigilance and efforts on the part of the U.S. Attorney General to protect the voting rights of citizens in these affected states. However, we must continue to implore Congress to pass a new bill to determine which states would be covered under the special provisions of the Voting Rights Act once again.

A number of issues of inequality still cast an oppressive shadow over many women today. One of the most pressing is a quest to obtain equal pay for women. Today, women earn approximately 77 cents of one dollar that men earn. We know that two-thirds of households in the U.S. depend on a woman’s income to survive. In April, the Paycheck Fairness Act of 2014 failed to pass by six votes in the U.S. Senate. It was the third time in recent years that wage equality legislation failed to pass. The number of working women continues to grow, but the inequity does not change. We must continue to call on Congress to do the right thing and pass legislation that will help hard working women secure equal pay for equal work.

One of the most crucial solutions to resolving our ongoing quest to attain absolute equality, is for women to become more directly involved in government. Unfortunately, there has only been a slight increase in the number of women running for legislative office in New Jersey and collectively throughout the country. According to the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP), there are significant advantages realized when women succeed in government: “The American public rates women above or equal to men in seven of eight traits considered crucial for leadership – women are perceived as outgoing, hardworking, honest, intelligent, creative, compassionate, and ambitious. Women are ranked higher in public polling than men in five of seven key policymaking areas, including working out compromises, keeping government honest, standing up for what they believe in, and representing constituents interests.”

Let’s remember that Women’s Equality Day is also a time to celebrate our successes. So, lean back and close your eyes. Let your mind wander to that historical day in 1920 when women received the right to vote. Feel the joy, the emotion, the hope that filled the hearts of so many. Take genuine pride in knowing that the League of Women Voters was there to usher them across a new terrain, and has been present ever since to help ensure democracy, and equality, for all. Then join us as we keep working toward a brighter future.

 

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More than an Internship

The following is the first in a series highlighting members of the League of Women Voters of New Jersey.

When Lauren Fisher accepted an internship with the League of Women Voters of New Jersey, her interests in women’s studies and politics were just beginning to develop. The League provided her with an opportunity to combine all of her interests and expand her knowledge even further. Throughout her time at the League, Lauren was exposed to many different aspects of nonprofit work. Speaking about her experiences at the League, Lauren says:

“I got to know the New Jersey political scene, and for the first time, I actually felt knowledgeable about policies that were being introduced in the State House. Initially I was unsure as to how that type of internship would relate to my career goals, but the experience has actually helped to shape my endeavors.”

Through her internship with the League of Women Voters of New Jersey, Lauren was able to gain a unique experience that contributed greatly to her life. Her background in women’s studies and politics allowed her to give back to the League through various projects including improving and working to expand the League’s Running & Winning Workshop, a popular program that encourages young women to consider a political career.  When asked why others should get involved with the League, Lauren says:

“The LWVNJ is a mobilizing organization.  Not only does it get its members, along with others, to participate in protests or advocacy events, but it also promotes female involvement in politics.  The values of the LWVNJ are not geared toward a certain political party, which is refreshing since party loyalty does not interfere with what the League advocates for.”

Along with the League’s nonpartisan stance, educating and encouraging the public to actively participate are important aspects of its mission. On voting, Lauren says:

“It is one of the main ways one can actively participate in government.  It demands that the voter be—at the very least—somewhat in touch with what the candidates stand for, and how they will handle issues currently facing the US.  I think for women, voting is especially important because it’s a right we did not always have.  We weren’t a part of the segment of society that had a say in who would be in charge.  Actively participating in government also gives people a chance to voice disapproval, advocate, and to stand up for what they believe in.”

As Lauren notes, women were not always able to freely vote for who would govern over them. Women’s history is a valuable piece of the League and it continues to encourage their right to actively participate in government. Younger generations of women and men are included in this population and therefore should seek opportunities that will enhance their education, just as Lauren has done. Speaking of the importance of young men and women to become involved with the League, Lauren says:

“I think it is definitely important for women and men to become involved with the LWVNJ and organizations like it.  Men’s involvement in organizations that promote women in politics is important for developing a vital partnership and mutual respect.  Also, as more people get involved in organizations that are politically active, then there is a stronger force against bad policies or rather, for good policies.  Younger generations need to get involved so as not to turn into complacent voters who side with whoever their friends are voting for, and also to promote political action to people they know, people younger than them and even people older than them.”

Betty Friedan

We asked our members and supporters to share the story of a woman that they admire. The following entry is written by Mabel Duran-Sanchez, LWVNJ’s spring intern.

While reading an excerpt from The Feminine Mystique for my Cold War History class last semester, I began to admire its author, Betty Friedan. Her criticism of the romanticized image of femininity, or “the feminine mystique,” is considered as the spark that ignited the “second wave” of the feminist movement in the 1960s.

In The Feminine Mystique, Friedan challenged the assumption that American women of that era wanted to be nothing but perfect housewives and mothers. She argued that the post-World War II American society pushed women back into the home sphere after some emancipation, and tried to reinforce the stereotypical ideas of women as housewives, mothers, and lovers—something that was at odds with their inner desires for fulfillment.

I could not help but to think of my mother and wonder, was my own mother a victim of the “feminine mystique?” My mother has always told me that she chose to become a homemaker.  However, since my sister and I moved out of our house, I began to notice her discontent. With my sister and I gone, she admitted to feeling like she had nothing productive to do. She, now more than ever, encourages us to pursue our educational and professional aspirations, and most importantly, to fulfill ourselves first.

In part, Friedan rejected the “feminine mystique” from personal experience. She, like my mother now, felt that there was more to life than raising a family. Friedan’s stance against mainstream society awakened women all over America and helped them to realize that they were not alone. Because of Friedan, women began to see themselves differently; they recognized that they were not abnormal if they had desires and goals that went beyond the boundaries of their homes.

I admire Friedan’s courage. She publicly rejected the cultural norms of her time and challenged the mainstream assumptions of what it was to be a woman. In essence, Friedan liberated women all across America who had fallen prisoners to their role as housewives, mothers, and lovers. It is because of women like Friedan that we enjoy the lives we live today.