Since 1909, March 8th has been the International Day of the Woman. It’s worth looking at what women have actually accomplished during these last 110 years in the U.S., specifically related to pay equity, gender equality, and, as Aretha said, “Respect.” One measurable accomplishment: the right to vote in 1920 (though only for white women). In some states, African American women couldn’t vote until 1960, due to restrictions put in place to specifically deny women of color suffrage. Subsequent gains were a direct result of the female vote, including abortion rights and equal pay.
As a result of the 1907 Expatriation Act, a woman marrying a foreign-born man would automatically lose her US citizenship while the opposite was not true for men. Two years after women got the vote, the Act was repealed. Although oral birth control was approved by the FDA in 1960, only married women had access, and that wasn’t until 1965. It was 1972 before the Supreme Court ruled that birth control pills were available to any woman regardless of her marital status. Until 1974, women were unable to have credit cards in their own names, and it wasn’t until 1985 that women could cite “irreconcilable differences” as a reason to divorce (before that, proof of abuse, abandonment, or infidelity was required). It wasn’t until 1993 that marital rape became illegal in all 50 states.
Yes, there are things to celebrate, especially related to recent social changes like the #MeToo movement, which raises awareness of sexual violence. Also, a record number of women currently serve in the U.S. Congress, which offers a voice for women in the U.S. Through the lens of Nonviolent Communication and a needs-based approach to life, equality, fairness and autonomy are needs that, when met, create more possibilities for fulfilling lives for everyone.
After 110 years of celebrating women, there is still much work to be done so that we can live in a world where women (especially women of color) have the same rights as men.