WomenÂ’s fight for equality must continue

Forty-seven years ago, in 1962, at the Third National Conference of the Status of Women, in Washington, D. C., Betty Freidan was having lunch. The discussion was about the inequality of women’s wages and it was all discussion — no action in the foreseeable future.

Impatiently waiting for her dessert, she wrote the acronym NOW on a paper napkin. After lunch, she invited 15 or 20 women to assemble in her hotel room that evening.

NOW, the National Organization for Women, was conceived that night. It was officially founded in 1966 with 300 charter members. Now it has 50,000, the largest women’s action organization in the country.

Betty Freidan’s book, “The Feminine Mystique,” had really stirred the action for women’s rights. Then NOW came along, “MS Magazine” started publishing and millions of women became what were called “feminists.” That was, by the way, a dirty word, and still is with many people.

Maria Shriver wrote, “While there is much to cheer about these days, on the equality of women, we still have a long way to go.” That sums it up.

Those of us who were in the middle of the Second Women’s Movement are getting a bit older, 40 years older. Most of us were baby boomers, but some of us were a generation ahead, which puts a lot of us in our 90s.

Most of our younger women today have no idea what it was like for women when they were born. But they are the ones who must carry on the battle to get us the rest of the way.

A woman city manager in Grand Junction? What a fantastic idea. Who would even suggest such a thing? A woman county commissioner with power equal to men?

Forty years ago, a woman would not have been considered for either job.

Even congresswomen had a problem they did not expect. The House section of the Capitol Building had, until 2007,  one women’s bathroom. It was outside the “members only” section, which meant that female members had to venture out into the public area, through the crowds of lobbyists to reach it. In 2007, the powers that be built a women’s bathroom in a small storeroom beside the men’s. Progress is sometimes slow, even at the top.

But a lot of progress has been made, according to the Oct. 26 issue of Time Magazine.  One of the top priorities is women’s pay for work, compared to men’s. In 1972 we earned 58 cents for every dollar men earned. By 2008, we had worked our way to 71 cents.

Education will be vitally important to young women in the future. By 2008, women were earning 60 percent of bachelors and masters degrees, compared to 40 percent in 1972. And in 2008, half of medical, law and dental degrees are going to women, compared to 10 percent 1972. In 2008, 32 percent of the lawyers were women, and 28 percent of doctors were women.

Women are making progress in other highly influential areas. In 2008 there were two female Supreme Court justices, seven Cabinet members, six governors, 2,396 FBI agents and four Ivy League university presidents. In 1971, there were none.

There are now 3.3 million couples in which the wife is the chief breadwinner. That is 2.4 million more than in 1971.

We live in a different world than the one Suffragettes and the Second Feminist Movement women lived in. But we have all been working for the same thing — equality for women. That means equal opportunity to be our best and to do our best, whatever we choose to be. We have come a long way since we could not vote but there is still a long way to go.

To our daughters and granddaughters it means we are passing the torch to you. Remember you are standing on the shoulders of millions of women who have gone before you.


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