The Suffragist Movement, Still Relevant Today | By Patricia Depew Wirth

LoudounMayJune2016HighResNoBleeds_Page_31Women in America fought tirelessly for every“right” that is now enjoyed by the masses; yet the  struggle for equality continues and is never over. These rights and accomplishments are taken for
granted because the struggles to achieve them and the women involved were conspicuously omitted from mainstream history. In 1980, Molly Murphy MacGregor and others founded the National Women’s  History Project (NWHP) in Santa Rosa, CA, to broadcast women’s historical achievements. At that  time, no more than 3% of the content in texts was devoted to women! THREE PERCENT! The NWHP  convinced Congress and the White House of the need for our nation to celebrate and recognize  women’s role in history on an annual basis. As a result of their efforts, President Carter  officially designated the week of March 8th (International Women’s Day) as National Women’s  History Week.

“From the first settlers who came to our shores, from the first American Indian families who befriended  them, men and women have worked together to build this nation. Too often the women were unsung and sometimes their contributions went unnoticed. But the achievements, leadership, courage, strength  and love of the women who built America was as vital as that of the men whose names we know so  well.

As Dr. Gerda Lerner has noted, ‘Women’s History is Women’s Right.’ – It is an essential and indispensable heritage from which we can draw pride, comfort, courage, and long-range vision.

I ask my fellow Americans to recognize this heritage with appropriate activities during  National Women’s History Week, March 2-8, 1980. I urge libraries, schools, and community organizations to focus their observances on the leaders who struggled for equality – – Susan B. Anthony, Sojourner Truth, Lucy Stone, Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Harriet Tubman, and Alice Paul.

Understanding the true history of our country will help us to comprehend the need for full equality  under the law for all our people.

This goal can be achieved by ratifying the 27th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which  states that “Equality of Rights underthe Law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex. ” – President Jimmy Carter.

In 1987, NWHP led the successful campaign to have the entire month of March declared  National Women’s History Month. Relentless, female advocacy is what makes the difference in gaining equality for women. Tuesday, April 12, 2016 was Equal Pay Day. Until the Equal Rights Amendment, written by suffragist Alice Paul, is ratified by three more  states as President Carter called for in 1980, American women continue to be denied full citizenship/equality and have to fight for it piece meal with legislation such as the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. You all know that at the rate we are going, women will not earn equal pay until 2059. Why does this matter? Because  over a 47-year working career a woman with a HS education will earn $700,000 less than a man, with a BS $1,200,000 less and with a graduate degree, $2,000,000 less!

April 12th was also the day that President Obama designated the Sewell-Belmont House  as the Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument. This historic mansion on Capitol Hill continues to serve as the headquarters for the National Woman’s Party formed by Alice Paul in 1916. Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it. If we fail to recognize the work of the suffragists who were the first female activists fighting for equality, we run the risk of  seeing our rights eroded by those who think“women are a lesser cut of meat” than a man per South Carolina politician, Tom Corbin!

The Turing Point Suffragist Memorial Association’s mission is to build a national memorial to  commemorate and educate the uninformed about the suffrage struggle, but that is not all. Our Turning Point Institute – to be launched upon completion of the memorial – will use the suffragists as role models to form the foundation of our intended programs for middle and high school girls from around the country. We want to educate, inspire and empower present and future generations to remain vigilant in the quest for equal rights. As Present Obama said at the Belmont-Paul Equal Rights National Monument dedication, “That’s the thing about America—we are never finished. We are a constant work in progress.”

2020 is the centennial anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution giving all  American women the right to vote. There is no national monument to honor the millions of  suffragists who fought for 72 years to win this right and to finally include us in the Constitution. This is a travesty! These women were warriors; Inez Milholland lost her life, Susan B. Anthony and Alice Paul forgave having families of their own to concentrate on their advocacy.

The decades-long, peaceful “struggle” turned bloody in 1917 when scores of suffragists were  arrested and jailed at President Wilson’s direction for picketing the White House. The women taken to the Occoquan Workhouse, ages 19 to 73, were beaten, some unconscious, and kept in deplorable, inhumane conditions. It was not until word leaked out that action was finally taken to get Congress to consider an Amendment.

Patricia D. Wirth
Executive Director
Turning Point Suffragist Memorial
SUFFRAGISTMEMORIAL.ORG

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