Friday, March 1, 2019

A Trumpista’s Horror—Women’ History Month is Back

Note—Back in 2019 I seem to have woken up channeling a Trumpling.  Rant updated.
Well that was close!  The U.S.A. just escaped the annual ordeal of Black History Month.  There should be an investigation of that.  Clearly a Barack Hussain Obama Muslim Commie Plot to bring this Great Country to its knees.  We had to endure those smug Black History Minutes on our TVs and other assaults on White goodness.
Now no sooner is that nightmare behind us than we discover the whole damn month of March is supposed to be given over to Women’s History!  Don’t get me wrong, I adore women.  Love ‘em to death!  I always open the door for Ladies and tip my Make America Great Again cap to them.  My sainted Mother was a woman and my wife—when she is not in one of her moods—is an angel on earth.  But lately it like Satan has taken possession of most of them!  They have forgotten their proper duty as obedient wives and pure daughters waiting to be the vessel of the race. 
A lot of the blame goes to this Women’s History Month which has filled their airy heads with ridiculous notions, holding up harpies and nags as heroines, and making examples of women pushing their way into the God-given realms of men.  The whole thing even started with those damn socialists and was pushed by the black helicopter crowd at the United Nations!  Look it up yourself.
I say we put an end to this now!  Let’s declare this White Man’s History Year.  It was always been that way before.  Let’s make it official.  That’ll shut ‘em all up!
Phew!  That was exhausting and draining.  I can’t keep it up even in the tradition of internet snark.  Let’s play it straight now for a look back at the real origins of Women’s History month.

A 1908 New York City Garment Workers strike inspired unionists and socialists to proclaim a Working Women's Day the following year.  By 1911 the day went world wide when it was adopted by the Socialist Internation.
The loonytoon I was channeling got one thing right—we owe it to trade unionists and members of the Socialist Party in New York City who on February 28, 1909 organized a Women’s Day to celebrate the anniversaries of a garment workers’ strike the year before and a march by women in the needle trades for the 10 hour day back in 1857.  The event was such a success the Socialists made it an annual event and took it national the next year.  In 1911 the Socialist International adopted it and spread it across Europe.  After the interruptions of all solidarity movements caused by World War I, the celebrations resumed and spread.  They were also adopted by the new Communist International (Comintern.)
In America, however, the post-war period was marked by a Red Scare and a wave of the greatest repression in U.S. history aimed squarely at Socialists, Communists, anarchists, and militant unionists.  Despite the long fought for victory of women’s suffrage in those same years, the mostly middle class women who had led the struggle did not want to identify their movement with the radicals.  Even as Women’s Day spread globally, its observance here was limited to a kind of labor ghetto.

Second wave Feminism of the '60's and '70's revived interest in International Women's Day in the U.S.
It took decades to regain a foothold in this country spurred by the Second Wave of feminism in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s the rise of Women’s Study and History in the colleges and universities.  They got a boost in 1975 when the United Nations officially adopted International Women’s Day on March 8.
First to act were educators at the Sonoma, California school district in 1978 who added a Women’s History Week centered on International Women’s Day the official curriculum.  It mostly centered on age appropriate projects highlight leaders of the suffrage movement.  The press picked up the story and spread it.   Sonoma teachers spread the idea in state and regional conferences and by the next year school districts across the country were adopting or adapting the idea and curriculum. 

National Women’s History Project cofounders Molly Murphy MacGregor, the Sonoma County California educator who helped pioneer a National Women’s History Week curriculum on the left with Paula Hammet, Mary Ruthsdotter, and Maria Cuevas.
Sonoma’s Molly Murphy MacGregor brought the idea to a 15 day conference of the Women’s History Institute at Sara Lawrence College in September 1979 organized by Professor Gerda Lerner.  The idea of Women’s History week caught fire and Lerner became a vocal national spokesperson for creating an official national event.
President Jimmy Carter acted quickly.  In February of 1980 he proclaimed National Women’s History Week centered around National Women’s Day on March 8.  His proclamation read:
From the first settlers who came to our shores, from the first American Indian families who befriended them, men and women have worked together to build this nation. Too often the women were unsung and sometimes their contributions went unnoticed. But the achievements, leadership, courage, strength and love of the women who built America was as vital as that of the men whose names we know so well. As Dr. Gerda Lerner has noted, “Women’s History is Women’s Right.” It is an essential and indispensable heritage from which we can draw pride, comfort, courage, and long-range vision. I ask my fellow Americans to recognize this heritage with appropriate activities during National Women’s History Week, March 2–8, 1980. I urge libraries, schools, and community organizations to focus their observances on the leaders who struggled for equality—Susan B. Anthony, Sojourner Truth, Lucy Stone, Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Harriet Tubman, and Alice Paul. Understanding the true history of our country will help us to comprehend the need for full equality under the law for all our people. This goal can be achieved by ratifying the 27th Amendment [Equal Rights Amendment] to the United States Constitution, which states that “Equality of Rights under the Law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”
School Districts, municipalities, and states began making proclamations.  Politicians of both political parties were eager to curry favor with the growing women’s movement realizing that women not only made up a majority of the electorate but also actually went to the polls significantly more often than men.  Even Carter’s explicit endorsement of the ERA was not then as partisan an issue as we might now believe.  Republican Party platforms from the 1920’s on had endorsed the ERA.  Many Republican women—and some male politicians—even supported the Roe v. Wade decision and reproductive choice.  In fact middle class suburban white women were a major force in the GOP.
Conservative icon Ronald Reagan was comfortable annually renewing Women’s History Week proclamations.  Republican First Ladies Betty Ford and Barbara Bush were both vocal supporters of the ERA, abortion rights, and other feminist issues.  Although not so vocal during her Born Again Christian husband’s Presidency, Laura Bush was known to hold similar views.
The non-partisan nature of support for women’s issues was illustrated when Utah Senator Orin Hatch and Maryland Democratic Representative Barbara Mikulski co-sponsored the first Joint Congressional Resolution proclaiming a Women’s History Week for March of 1992.

With wide bi-partisan support in Congress was able to publickly sign a Presidential Proclamation honoring Women's History Month..  How times have changed.  Now the GOP seems to wear systematic misogyny as a badge of honor.
The movement to expand the one week observation into a whole month was taken up by some of the states.  By 1986 14 states had adopted Women’s History Month.  The same year the National Women’s History Project conducted a massive petition campaign to Congress urging to make the Month National.  And they did annually from 1984-94.  
By the latter year Congressional Republicans were in full retreat on women’s issues as they became more and more beholden to the Religious Right who opposed both the ERA and reproductive choice.  From then on Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama all resumed issuing Presidential proclamations. 
In recent years under the influence of the Tea Party Congressional Republicans have abandoned virtually any semblance of supporting women’s rights and have become actively hostile to the point of prideful and open misogyny while Republicans in control of state legislatures propose ever more bizarre attacks on women.  The elevation of exposed sexual predator and open misogynist Donald Trump to the Presidency and his alliance with the hard core Religious Right has made transformation of the Republican Party into a bastion of White male privilege and hostility to women.
This year Donald Trump issued a pro forma Women’s History Month proclamation on the official White House web site but kept damn quiet about it otherwise.  No symbolic events are planned, but The Donald is licking his wounds over the failed North Korean summit and is sweating out Michael Cohn’s congressional testimony and the anticipated arrival of the Mueller Report
Meanwhile on the Democratic side the Obama administration initiated the landmark 2011 Women in America: Indicators of Social and Economic Well-Being report and advanced women’s causes and defended their interests via appointments and executive orders when Congress has blocked action.
The bitter and hard fought primary contest between Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders for the Democratic Presidential nomination in 2016 largely centered on which candidate was best for women, and on if women owed their support to the possible first major party female presidential candidate.  There was a bitter and divisive split between older women and traditional feminist leaders on one hand and many younger, poorer women on that hot button issue.

Women were a huge part of the Blue Wave that put Democrats in control of the the House. Women of color including Alexandra Ocasio-Ortiz, top, and Lauren Underwood, second from the bottom were a vivit presence
However women on both sides of that divide were spurred run for office creating a mighty wave that swept women into power at every level of government in 2018.  They were largely responsible for the Blue Wave that gave Democrats a firm majority in the House of Representatives.  And they hit the ground running with a bold progressive agenda.  Speaker Nancy Pelosi famously stared down the Cheeto-in-Charge over the Government shutdown and his beloved vanity project, the Border Wall.   Freshmen stars including Alexandra Ocasio-Ortiz, Ilhan Omars, Sharida Davids, and Illinois own Lauren Underwood have already struck terror in Republicans
Meanwhile four women are among a large field of credible Democratic Presidential hopefuls for 2020—Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, and Kirsten Gillibrand.

Four powerful Senators, Elizabeth Warren, Kamal Harris, Amy Klobuchar, and Kirsten Gillibrand are among top tier early leaders for the 2020 Democratic Presidential noination.
Perhaps even more astonishing, two accomplished Black women, one of them a lesbian—Cook County Board President Toni Periwinkle and progressive outsider Lori Lightfoot have made the cut in a run-off election for Mayor of Chicago.
Ruth Bader Ginsberg despite her age and health issues has become a national icon on the Supreme Court and was the subject of both a highly lauded theatrical film,  On the Basis of Sex and an Academy Award nominated documentary, RBG.  

2019 National Women's History Month official logo.

This year the theme of the 2019 National Women’s History Month is Visionary Women: Champions of Peace and Nonviolence.   The National Women’s History Alliance describes the choice:

This year we honor women who have led efforts to end war, violence, and injustice and pioneered the use of nonviolence to change society. These Honorees embraced the fact that the means determine the ends and so developed nonviolent methods to ensure just and peaceful results.

For generations, women have resolved conflicts in their homes, schools, and communities. They have rejected violence as counterproductive and stressed the need to restore respect, establish justice, and reduce the causes of conflict as the surest way to peace. From legal defense and public education to direct action and civil disobedience, women have expanded the American tradition of using inclusive, democratic and active means to reduce violence, achieve peace, and promote the common good.

From women’s rights and racial justice to disarmament and gun control, the drive for nonviolent change has been championed by visionary women. These women consciously built supportive, nonviolent alternatives and loving communities as well as advocating change. They have given voice to the unrepresented and hope to victims of violence and those who dream of a peaceful world.

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