Monday, May 30, 2005

Women, War and the ERA

Women, War and the ERA

The American Revolution would not have been won without its women. They have never gotten the credit they deserved. It is time they did.
They don’t want much. Just equality, something they still don’t have under the existing Constitution. You might have thought it happened. It didn’t. America has not ratified the Equal Eights Amendment. It is time it did.
The bill has been payable for over 200 years. It is time to pay up.
It is a well known but misunderstood fact that the Revolution was funded and fought for the most part from the New England states. New England was able to put a huge army in the field because it had always depended on the productivity of women, who sharing the goals and dangers of the war, redoubled their efforts to allow fathers, husbands, brothers, and sons, to take up arms.
The household based economy of the New England States made up the largest part of the capital investment that carried the revolution through its years of conflict. The women who bore this burden believed that their risk and investment would be repaid through the capital of liberty thereby produced. They expected that after the war they would receive a full share in the freedom won.
Ironically, women were less free after the Revolution than before. Before the war many New England states tied the right to vote to property, so many women voted. After the war franchise was firmly tied to gender. Emigrants who had contributed nothing to the effort to establish freedom were given the prerogatives of citizenship denied to these original investors. After the war the various States asserted the right to further control women through marriage and divorce laws and other measures that restricted their freedoms.
But subsequent generations of women took up the burdens of the fight for a human emancipation they did not yet share. They became the weight and the will of the Abolitionist Movement. They worked for social reforms and against poverty. Again, believing they would be included along with their black sisters and brothers in full citizenship, they were disappointed when the 14th Amendment failed to include them. They were told to wait while the Black Man had his day. Black Sisters did not matter any more than did they. In each case only a handful of men, those who enjoyed the benefits of their sacrifices, went on to work with them for the liberty of women.
Those of us who cry for their rage remember those names. The honorable deserve the credit of their actions.
Subsequent generations of women patriots have also been denied both the moral credit for their sacrifices and a page in history. They are still not included as full citizens under the law of the Constitution.
The ability to wage war is not just about men in battle. For every soldier in the field many others labor to supply the weapons, the munitions, the food, the essential support that keeps him or her there. Today we well know that the benefits of such service are extended to all of those specialties that never include exposure to the moral dangers of battle. They are nonetheless soldiers that serve to support the effort.
Why then do we deny to women the full franchise and protection of law, granting this to all men? Women have always served. They have simply not been recognized or compensated.
As a long time member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, as an American and a patriot I object.
Extend to women the full rights of citizenship. Ratify the ERA
Equality of the genders under law is no longer negotiable.

1 comment:

Norlyn Dimmitt said...

Many take offense when I use the mantra, "End White Male Plutocracy" (but replace it with a Wiser Democracy, not mob rule).

But it is patriarchy (of any color, and of any wealth status) that allows most of the unnecessary suffering in the world.

We need the Ethic of Care, that women disproportionately provide, to be fully empowered (politically and economically).