Women have made incredible strides throughout history; they've gone from not being able to own property, vote, attend institutions of higher learning, or have a say in their own lives; to the women of today who hold the reins of their lives in their very resourceful, accomplished and capable hands. It was 94 years ago (only the length of a healthy lifetime) when the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was passed providing: "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex;” and today women are thriving in all walks of life; in the fields of business, government, medicine, and culture, to name but a few; and though not so long ago we couldn’t even vote for the leader of our nation, I have no doubt that, God willing, within my lifetime we will have a worthy woman President in the White House.
Marion Wright Edelman, attorney and civil rights advocate, said "If you don't like the way the world is, you change it. You have an obligation to change it. You just do it one step at a time." Through the years, great women have witnessed injustice and done just that, brought about change. These women too often overlooked in our history books include Susan B. Anthony, an American suffragist who championed women's equal rights but dedicated her life to the belief that all people are equal; Eleanor Roosevelt, a vocal supporter of the African-American civil rights movement, as well as women’s rights and those of the poor; and Rosa Parks, a cornerstone of the civil rights movement and later a strong advocate for human rights issues. I’d be remiss in not also adding that American women don’t necessarily corner the market on greatness; there's Marie Curie who won not one but two Nobel Prizes, Mother Theresa, Golda Meir or Indira Gandhi; through the ages women have (to borrow from the words of Theodore Roosevelt) tread softly, but carried a big stick in order to knock down doors otherwise closed to opportunity and to clear a path for those following in their footsteps.
Each day women have to break down new barriers and face new hurdles but we are equal to the task. New leaders and champions are created each day; both young and old alike, like Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani school girl who faced down the Taliban to fight for a girl's right to an education or Edith Windsor, who at the age of 84 faced down the U.S. Supreme Court and became an icon of the gay-rights movement.
In a speech at Women's Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio delivered in 1851, Sojourner Truth, an emancipated female slave uttered these unforgettable words in her speech, “Ain’t I A Woman?” Sojourner faced the crowd and said in part “If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right side up again!” Sojourner had it right; women (from the activist, to the politician, to the soccer mom) have been working in countless ways to make things right and shape a better, kinder and fairer world for all; we have plenty to celebrate, but still a ways to go.
I’ll end this post with the beautiful words of Emily Green Balch, American feminist and peace activist, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1946.
"Let us be patient with one another,
And even patient with ourselves.
We have a long, long way to go.
So let us hasten along the road,
The road of human tenderness and generosity.
Groping, we may find one another's hands in the dark."