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Posted on: March 9, 2019

Ellen Moyer: On International Women's Day

Spurred by the suffragette movement in the 1900s, though many years later, the United Nations acted to Declare March 8 as International Women's Day. This annual non-holiday is set aside as a day to "celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievement of women" It is also a day to call for action to promote, enforce and advocate for gender equality. Michelle Obama said, "the future of our world is only as bright as the future of our girls."  Yet for vast numbers of women worldwide there is no right to education, or even a right to play and sing and talk and speak up. 


Young girls struggle to be whole. Alicia Keys, American Grammy Award winner, singer, classical pianist and songwriter described a new awakening thus, "I don't want to cover up anymore. Not my face, not my mind, not my soul, not my thoughts, not my dreams, not my struggles, not my emotions. Not my growth. Nothing!"  These words of a talented songwriter no doubt reflected Alicia Keys own experience with Columbia records where her talent was dismissed and efforts were made to reshape her natural ability and looks and "who I am."America was built by strong women traveling on wagon wheels across this vast country. They were the glue that held families together. The initiators of education. And in the words of Margaret Thatcher, the doers that find ways to get things done.  


However,  gender equality is elusive to women in many countries and sexism in different ways exists everywhere. Melinda Gates described "a woman with a voice is strong but the search to find that voice can be remarkably difficult" Since, according to author Joseph Conrad," it consists principally of dealing with men"It hasn't been that long ago when opportunities for women were limited. Professional women used initials with their name to disguise their identity when applying for a job or entrance to institutions of education. 


When Ruth Bader Ginsburg attended law school at Harvard in 1956, one of seven women in a law class of 500, the women were chided by the law school's dean for taking the place of qualified men. Graduating number one in her class at Columbia University, that she had transferred to when her husband lawyer accepted a job in NYC, she found it difficult to find employment for herself. She eventually became a professor of law at Rutgers and was the first female tenured professor at Columbia. 


Believing that the law was gender blind and that all were entitled to equal rights under the law, Ruth Ginsburg devoted her professional life to women's rights. For the ACLU she argued 6 cases before the Supreme Court Winning 5 landmark cases on gender equality. In 1993, President Clinton nominated her to the Supreme Court. A strong voice for gender equality, workers rights and separation of church and State she received almost unanimous support from the US Senate for her appointment as the second woman on the Supreme Court. 


In the last twenty years, "we may have come a long way, baby"  but we still have a ways to go forward towards gender equality.  In the last two years since the March on Washington ,  a march that inspired women in more restrictive countries  (gee you can drive a car now in Saudi Arabia but go on trial for doing so) to March and speak out , more women have been elected to political office than in all the years combined before. 


Moving on a moral compass against divisiveness and greed, 10 are considering a run for president. Over two years, the doors have opened shedding light on the practice and presumed right of sexual harassment. Yet sex trafficking blossoms as a multi-billion dollar business. 


On this day when we celebrate the achievements of women around the globe, we also know that the biggest part of our celebration is the recognition of the need for a Call for Action for gender equality. This battle for a more civil world will be won when women everywhere support the yearnings of others "not to be covered up anymore" .. not to have growth as human beings stifled. 


Ellen Moyer

March 8, 2019


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