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Know Your History–Create the Future of Your Choice


“If women want any rights more than they got, why don’t they just take them, and not be talking about it.” –-Sojourner Truth, 1797-1883, former slave, abolitionist

During the last 50 years, thanks to feminism and other civil rights movements, reliable birth control, and an economy that requires more brain than brawn, women have broken many barriers that historically prevented us from partaking as equals at life’s table. I feel privileged to be part of this amazing trajectory. All of my Women’s History Month posts come from a place of profound appreciation for the shoulders I stand on. Women like Sojourner Truth who had so much courage, clarity of vision, and leadership savvy.

I found feminism when I was a desperate housewife in Odessa, Texas in the 1960′s. After volunteering for civil rights organizations, I had the epiphany that women should have civil rights too. I “discovered” the new Ms Magazine. Then, I joined the National Organization for Women a few years after its 1966 founding, as an at-large member. Soon, I’d find the half-dozen other at-large members in West Texas’ expanse. It was a heady time of firsts for women; still, few of us could have predicted either the stunning advances or the discouraging setbacks ahead.

Fast forward to Hillary Clinton’s groundbreaking presidential campaign that didn’t take women into the presidency, but came close enough that no one will ever again ask whether women are smart enough or tough enough to do the job. Today even right-wing Republicans realize putting a woman on the ticket symbolizes electrifying change. Women earn 60% of college degrees, reproductive technologies have changed the power balance in personal relationships and we’re closer to parity in earnings than any time in history.

To be sure, women still don’t have full equality in any sphere of political or economic endeavor. Women hold just 17% of seats in Congress–the 2010 elections resulted in the first decline in over a decade–and under 25% of state legislative offices; 3% of top clout positions in mainstream media corporations and 15% of corporate board positions. We’re still waging a battle for reproductive rights, both at the state and federal levels. And despite gender equity laws, women earn 3/4ths of what men do while shouldering the lion’s share of responsibility for child rearing.

Still, the most confounding problem facing women today isn’t that doors aren’t open, but that women aren’t walking through the doors in numbers and with intention sufficient to transform society’s major institutions once and for all. Probing history, there seems to be a recurrent approach-avoidance pattern.

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Copyright 2010 Gloria Feldt