I went on a road trip with my dog to Seneca Falls, NY a few years ago. I wanted to see the Women’s Rights National Historical Park. Today reminds me of that mind-blowing trip. It is the 90th anniversary of our right to vote. 1920 doesn’t seem that long ago, though.
Women still don’t earn equal pay for equal work. We’re hovering around 78%.
In a male-female household, women still do more of the house work. Men do an average of 10 hours a week and women do 17 hours. If there are children, women put in an average 28 hours a week and men remain at 10.
Women were sacrificed to keep the peace at the Milwaukee County Mental Health Complex when the administrator there decided to house women on a violent men’s ward. This wasn’t done because of overcrowding. It turns out that the presence of these sacrificial women somewhat diminished the level of violence that these men displayed. Also, as a result, several of them were repeatedly assaulted but apparently, that was a small price to pay.
Women are possessions, even in death. I’ve seen countless cemetery tombstones for John Smith and his wife, Jane. She has no identity other than the one conferred on her by her association with him. They are never listed first, even if they died first. The name is carved on the bottom of the marker and the top is left blank, waiting.
Women are wives of, mothers of, sisters of. They are rarely described first as simply themselves with a list of their accomplishments. They are qualified by detailing their association with the men in their lives.
A woman’s value is judged by her age. Jane Smith, wife of John Smith, age 57… In the same article, it rarely will say John Smith, wife of Jane Smith, age 61 – even if the article is about her, not him.
Yes, I notice these things – and more. I notice them because of the 90 years of painful fighting that these women went through so that we can, coincidentally, have had the right to vote for 90 years. It took them that long. And, it wasn’t the Mary Poppins Mother-character sort of suffragette fight. When you hear women were ‘even jailed’, try finding and reading the actual stories. They were hosed down, starved, and put in with violent men to teach them a lesson. They were humiliated and threatened.
Thank you for doing this. For enduring. For not turning violent in return. For not bombing. For refusing to be silent. Thanks to these women, I have the comparative luxury of noticing and caring about pay or household chore inequities.
Susan Scot Fry
Update… I was inspired to declare my own independence in honor of this anniversary.