As President of the Women’s Museum of California, I participate in museum and community-wide programs that showcase the work of the amazing women who have devoted, or continue to dedicate, their lives and talents to promoting women’s rights and freedoms. Although such tenacity has resulted in legislation benefitting women, the enactment of such laws has always been met with strong opposition, not only from men, but also from women (e.g., Phyllis Schlafly) and extremist women’s organizations (e.g., Concerned Women forAmerica).
This unrelenting struggle was first exemplified in the suffrage movement, which began in 1848 and culminated with ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment granting women the right to vote in 1920. During those 72 years, millions of women raised their voices, marched, and persuaded men to vote for suffrage. The Equal Rights Amendment, proposed for the first time in 1923, continues to be introduced on the floor of the U.S. Congress with each new congressional session (the 113th session begins in January 2013). As of 1976, thirty-five states have ratified this amendment, short by the three states required to make it a permanent part of the Constitution. Can this amendment gain ratification with just three more states voting in favor of it —after 90 years?
During the late 1980s and early 1990s, the tenacious persistence of hundreds of thousands of women led to the enactment of the Violence against Women Act of 1994. Members of numerous women’s nongovernmental organizations convinced Congress to convene hearings on the importance of enacting such legislation. After four years of grassroots work and many congressional hearings, the VAWA of 1994, sponsored by Senator Joe Biden, was passed and signed into law by President Bill Clinton. The act has been reauthorized over the years, but is now languishing in the House of Representatives, more than 700 days since it expired.
Today, a call to action becomes necessary. We have a responsibility to honor the work of the women who have gone before us. We have come very far, but we still have much to do. There is still reason to rise.
Today, we need to urge our representatives to resolve their differences and reauthorize the VAWA. If Congress does not act before the end of this session, the VAWA will have to be re-introduced in the 113thCongressional session.
Today, and on February 14 2013, one of our most important goals is to send a message to those members of the House and Senate who are not supporting VAWA reauthorization. We will “strike” by voting those individuals out of Congress in two years. There is power in the women’s vote: ten million more women voted than men in 2008 and in 2012.
We will rise. The delaying tactics of elected officials who refuse to support legislation crucial to the well-being of all women are intolerable. Passage of the VAWA reauthorization is a necessary step in our drive to end violence against women.
And when that happens, together with the visionary women of 1848, we will dance.
Anne Hoiberg is the Board President of the Women’s Museum of California. Its mission is to “educate and inspire present and future generations about the experiences and contributions of women by collecting, preserving, and interpreting the evidence of that experience.” The museum is located at 2730 Historic Decatur Rd, Suite 103, Barracks 16 in San Diego and is open Wednesday-Sunday, 12-4.
Anne will be dancing on February 14, 2013.