Tuesday, March 22, 2011

How Women Became [USA] Citizens (Hint: It Didn't Happen Overnight!)

It was only just a century ago when "the U.S. Supreme Court in 1910 denied damages to a wife injured by violent beatings on the grounds that to do so would undermine 'the peace of the household'.

Many American women still alive today (at age 90 plus) were born before their mothers and grandmothers could vote.  "Still, deeply entrenched assumptions about gender roles were hard to overcome. Even when women finally won the vote in 1920, one of the most powerful arguments propelling them to victory was the claim that modern government, in assuming obligation for the education and socialization of children and for the general social welfare, had taken on traditional responsibilities of the household. For many Americans this became the compelling rationale for why women finally needed a voice in their own right."

Things don't happen overnight!  "We need to remember these developments. Public policy, we know, is largely path dependent. How we think and act today is often determined by a past we don't fully understand. This is particularly true for women who have for so long been denied fair recognition as historical actors. History is to the body politic as memory is to the individual, as veteran historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. once observed. We need to keep our engagement with history lively, as we are bound to lose our way without it.

We need history to help us navigate our own troubled times. We especially need it now as we try to unravel the remnants of "coverture" that still constrain women's civil status and as we do so in the face of an intensifying backlash against women's equality.

The litany of injustices women still face in this country is by now familiar...."

read the rest, from Ellen Chesler, Senior Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute

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