Saturday, August 14, 2010
Two Steps Forward...One Step Backwards
Go on! Go On! Go On! Go on!
Go on! Go on! Go On! Go on!
Go on! Go On! Go on! Go on!"
--chorus a missionary taught natives
Gail Collins has written this great article in Saturday’s New York Times about the 90th Anniversary of women getting the right to vote and run for office in this country. It took seventy one years from the first women’s suffrage movement in 1848 until the Constitution was finally amended in 1919. Collins says that the great roadblock year after year was mostly the United States Senate. Sound familiar?
Carrie Chapman Catt was one of the early leaders of this movement in the 1880’s. Collins quotes her as saying it took:
56 referendums directed at male voters
480 campaigns to get Legislatures to
submit suffrage amendments to voters
47 campaigns to get constitutional conventions to write women suffrage into state constitutions
277 campaigns to get State party conventions to include
Woman suffrage planks
30 campaigns to get presidential party campaigns to
include woman suffrage planks in party platforms
19 campaigns with successive Congresses.
Yet Ms. Catt and Susan B. Anthony and a host of women would not be stopped. When we grow discouraged at the slow progress of health care reform and gay rights and the immigrant struggle and even the subtle racism just barely beneath the surface--we need to remember our history.
We can’t give up the fight for human rights for everyone. We are to do battle as best we can. Remember that London was bombed more than 70 consecutive nights in the Second World War. Winston Churchill had been Prime Minister during those turbulent years. Someone asked him what was the secret of England’s success. He said it was found in six words: “Never…never…never…never give up.”
Chaim Potok, the Jewish novelist said, “I am neither an optimist not a pessimist , I am a persistantist.” So maybe when we grow weary of the slowness of our progress we need to remember this story about the women who showed us--more times than any of us can name--that we must stay in the fight.