One hundred and thirty one years.
That’s the amount of time between the ratification of the United States Constitution and the 19th Amendment.The founding fathers were clever men. The issues of slavery and women’s suffrage were already touchy subjects, and rightly so. Fighting the battle for freedom and equality under the law, the subject of the enslaved people in the South and the rights of women couldn’t be ignored. But, they couldn’t turn everything upside down and survive as a new Republic. So, those forward thinking men did something else. They made the language universally inclusive and eternally relevant by using the word “Men”, meaning all of mankind. So, the seeds for all American citizens being equal were planted in 1789, right?
It was another 81 years before the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments were passed, freeing all African Americans from slavery and bestowing all the rights and privileges of citizenship on them….well, almost all of them. Only the men got to vote. Susan B. Anthony started her work as an Abolitionist and died on March 13, 1906, 14 years before she could see her life’s work become a reality.
Fifty years after the 15th Amendment passed, the 19th Amendment became law in this country, giving all women the right to vote. 1920. Two decades into the Twentieth Century, and finally, American women could vote. There are people alive in this country right now that remember when their mothers couldn’t vote. With all the freedom and semi equality American women have, we still struggle with issues like wage inequality and reproductive rights. It’s been two hundred and twenty six years and the principles of equality that this country has it’s roots in still have not been achieved..
Women in the Western Hemisphere, for the most part, are much closer to the goal of equality than women in China, Africa or in countries controlled by Islamic extremists. Women in these parts of the world have only a passing familiarity with the concept of being equal to the men around them, and safe place to begin the fight for their rights. The UN Commission On The Status of Women meets today to discuss the state of equal rights around the world. This interview with the UN Secretary-General and the Executive Director of UN Women, posted on the United Nations’ website, sheds light on the continuing fight for equal rights on an international level. The UN is calling for their Planet 50:50 initiative to be in full effect by 2030.
Fifteen more years!
For countries in the Western Hemisphere, 15 years seems like more than enough time to get the right policies in place. For countries where women are brutalized, sold as property, refused educations, fifteen years may not be long enough.
The struggle for women’s rights has not ended. Until all people that live on this planet together are equal, we still have to point out the disparities, highlight the weak areas that need work. As long as women don’t fight back, with votes, voices or fists, we, on the whole are held back. Feminism is not now, nor has it ever really been just a women’s issue. It effects all humanity, because once all are included, no one can be excluded again.