Sunday, January 29, 2006

100 Years Since Susan B.: Consider the Anthony Legacy

"I wonder if when I am under the sod - or cremated and floating in the air - I shall have to stir you and others up. How can you not be all on fire? . . . I really believe I shall explode if some of you young women don't wake up."

Susan B. Anthony, 1898
Fourteen years after Susan B. Anthony died in 1906, women won the right to vote. But one hundred years later, we are still only 15% of the U.S. Congress. (The U.S. is 59th in the world for the number of women in our national legislature. Sweden, South Africa and Rwanda all have more.) 107 men and 2 women have served on the U.S. Supreme Court.
Would a woman president change our political culture? With Michelle Bachelet elected president of Chile and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf president of Liberia (the 1st woman president in Africa), a New York Times article suggests voters wanted the kind of change these women were especially able to bring: "'We have been fighting wars for 15, 20 years in this region," said Rosaline M'Carthy, leader of the Women's Forum in Sierra Leone, who traveled here last week for the inauguration. 'To see the first female president elected from a war-torn country shows people are now beginning to see what men have wrought in this region. It is the minds of men that make war. Women are the architects of peace.' " ("Where Political Clout Demands a Maternal Touch," New York Times, Sunday, January 22, 2006.)
What would change if women made up more than 50% of the U.S. Congress? WEDO's 50/50 Campaign is inspired by evidence that a critical mass of elected women makes a difference:
"There is evidence however, that when women enter decision-making bodies in significant numbers, issues such as child care, violence against women and unpaid labor are more likely to become priorities for policy-makers. In Norway, women Members of Parliament brought about the "politics of care" which obligates the state to increase publicly sponsored child care services, extend the paid parental leave period, introduce options for more flexible work hours and improve pension rights for unpaid care work. In South Africa, through the efforts of women Parliamentarians the "women's budget process" was introduced to analyze the government's budget from a gender perspective and allocate more resources for women's needs. In India, the women chairpersons in the panchayats of Dehra Dun district in northern Uttar Pradesh obtained funds to build a network of four-foot wide concrete roads and drains."
What would Susan say?
"From the cradle the children of the manly woman and womanly man of the 20th century will be trained in the principles of good government. They will be taught that might is not right, either in the home or the state; that arbitration rather than human slaughter should settle all international difficulties." Susan B. Anthony, 1900