Women spilled across the broad expanse of Fifth Avenue, the streets of Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Main Street America. Thousands of women, men, and children heard the call for a mass demonstration to strike for women's equality on August 26, 1970. This marked the 50th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote. This rally underscored that the modern feminist movement was a player in American politics and society. The mass demonstration and the brave women of the modern feminist movement, starting with Betty Friedan, author of "The Feminine Mystique," were the subject of the documentary "Makers" on PBS this month. The film celebrates the many women whose vision organized and made possible the impossible for women long restricted by laws and society.
For many of us, it was a reliving of an "Aha" moment in our lives. We were more than the "little woman" and we could do more than dream of a life outside the home. It brought back the days before legal abortions and the right to make one's personal decisions legally about childbearing. It brought back the sisterhood of women as we fought to be regarded as equal.
For many, it was a lesson in how women have progressed and how the rights that many women assume were always there were fought for by their mothers, aunts, and grandmothers. The film explores younger women who are trying to understand the feminist movement. Some are angry that their mothers taught them there were no limitations and now they must be superwomen. They question if they can "have it all." Should they try? What does the feminist movement mean in their lives?
To those who struggle with question of equality, the facts are hard. Women who work and have a fifty-fifty husband/partner still feel maternal guilt and do more for the children. But because of the movement, they can choose to work full-time, part-time, now, later, or not at all. The operative word is "choice." They can choose to control their reproductive health and plan their lives. They hold this right because of the struggles that went before.
Women today have the right to choose career over marriage and not be judged a failure. They can attempt to reach for the stars. But there is much left to do. Women still do not get equal pay for equal work, their reproductive rights are being challenged and lost in many states and the ERA has still never passed.
The Conservative "pro-life" movement continues to score many victories in state legislatures. Abortion is virtually impossible in a number of states. Women are at risk to going back to the days of life-threatening choices. We must look at history and resolve that we are no less than the brave women who made our lives more equal. Join JAC as we work to ensure that these rights are not a page in history. It is time to complete this chapter and together we can write the best ending for future generations.
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