Thursday, March 31, 2011

Our History Is Our Strength

By Guest Blogger, NWPC President, Lulu Flores

How often have we heard or used the phrase, “we stand on the shoulders of those who came before us”? I, for one, have heard it countless times; and for me it is a phrase that is filled with meaning. For truly, had it not been for the women who came before me, who paved the road to equality with their blood, sweat and tears, who provided me with hard-earned rights and opportunities and who taught me valuable life lessons, I would not be where I am today.  None of us would. Whether it be the sheroes of yesterday who fought for the rights we now exercise daily, or our mothers, grandmothers, sisters, aunts, friends and neighbors who had a hand in shaping our character and morality, we owe all these women a huge debt of gratitude.  
The fact that many of us may not be aware of the contributions made by women is sad, but not too surprising given that until relatively recently, history was recorded by men, and thus only partially written and partially told. It’s as if we neglected to use vital colors in painting the portrait of this nation. Women were long denied proper, or even any, acknowledgment for the part they played in shaping their communities and this country. Because of this, generations before us were deprived of an important piece of their heritage; both girls and boys were denied important role models.  
So, it is only fitting that this country now recognizes the contributions of women and pays special tribute to them during the month of March every year. Honoring women's contributions went from an idea, to an act of Congress and grew from one week to an entire month. And this year’s theme, Our History is Our Strength, is fitting. The only way we are truly able to appreciate who we are is to know from where we came and to learn about the struggles and successes of those who came before us. By learning our history and understanding our culture, we cultivate self esteem and pride in who we are.
And as the Executive Director of the National Women’s History Project noted: “This year, rather than highlighting national figures,” the Project is “encouraging individuals to discover stories about the women in their own families and communities. (Because) knowing the challenges these women faced, grappled with, and overcame can be an enormous source of strength to all of us.”

Friday, March 25, 2011

Suing Henry Kissinger – and winning!

By guest blogger and NWPC board member, Marguerite Cooper
It was not done lightly and it took many years of persistence and patience.
Right out of college in 1956, I went into the U.S. Foreign Service, after passing rigorous written and oral exams. At the time, only 4.6% of US career diplomats were women.
There was systematic and systemic discrimination against women at the time, although it took me almost 10 years to realize this. My first day on the job I learned that women, as a condition of employment, could not be married. They did not volunteer this information, but I learned it when all newcomers were asked what their assignment preferences were. I said “Moscow, Prague or Warsaw” as my undergraduate specialty had been Eastern Europe and Communism within USC’s School of International Relations.
Nope. We don’t send single officers behind the Iron Curtain, I was told, and should I marry, I would have to resign from the Service. It turns out that the Personnel Office required its employees to be available for worldwide service and women’s residences were presumed to be where ever their husbands were. Less concrete but just as chilling was Personnel’s assumption that should the Soviets attempt blackmail by arranging for the seduction of American diplomats, women would be more likely than men to betray their country over their Communist lovers! So, I had to choose another geographical specialty and abandon my university background. I chose India and South Asia.
Over the years I was told that I would not be assigned to Middle Eastern countries, as they looked down on women, nor trained in Arabic or Japanese language, for the same reason. I could be a consular officer, issuing visas and passports, but not a political one, analyzing events and trends and recommending policy. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

In Honor of Dorothy Height on Her Birthday

Guest Blogger Alicia Barrett, NWPC Intern

Recounting the plight of Black women in the United States reveals a complex and continuous battle against racial and gender discrimination. Their stories are compelling and their voices resonate with power and resilience, but as the daughter of Caribbean parents, the history of Black women in America was not a topic often discussed but rather learned and appreciated over time. It was not until college that I learned about Black feminism and the role Black women played in the creation of institutions and organizations that demanded equality throughout the 19th and 20th century. As I became aware of the unique struggle they faced, I discovered the stories of so many Black women who, in their fight for racial and gender equality, have contributed greatly to the social welfare of all Americans. One such woman is Dorothy Height.
Today, March 24, marks the birthday of Dorothy Height, an inspirational African American woman leader and advocate for social justice in America. She is a heroine for juxtaposing the struggles of the Women’s and African American rights movements and bringing it to National attention. Her legacy will forever represent a tireless dedication to improving human rights for all.  In the context of social, economic and political barriers, her legacy is remarkable as it shows the potency a woman can have despite the obstacles she may face.    

Thursday, March 17, 2011

How a Boy Became a Feminist

By Guest Blogger (and NWPC Intern) Austin Langon in honor of Women's History Month
I grew up in a home with three women all of whom were strong willed, ambitious, and very compassionate. This combination of ambition and caring instilled in me the idea that equality is not only necessary but must be worked for every day. In rural Pennsylvania, in the northern tier of Appalachia, it is not always wise for a young man to pronounce himself a feminist but perhaps it’s for this reason, the influence of the women in my life, that I didn’t view my opinions as radical.
Having grown up with feminist ideology in the bucolic paradise that is northern Appalachia I was able to not only firmly ground my beliefs in the injustices I saw in this country towards women, but I was also able to release whatever testosterone fueled adventurous plans in the wilderness that surrounded me. Being an avid outdoors man and sportsman, whether it be kayaking down the Leigh River, hiking the Appalachian Trail, or harvesting the fauna from the mountains, I fell in love with the outdoors. I have been involved in scouting since I was five years old and I first went to Hawk Mountain as a Tiger Cub.  There at the North Lookout, eating Little Debbie oatmeal cakes, I found what has become my favorite place. Hawk Mountain is a playground for those who view wildlife and conservation as a passion in their life. Allowing for ornithology, deer hunting, hiking, and located along the Little Schuylkill River, kayakers are always passing by. Hawk Mountain was founded not by a burly woodsman, but by a socialite suffragist by the name of Rosalie Edge

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

International Women's Day

Today, on the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day, we must acknowledge that the United State’s position in the world with regard to women’s rights is not what it should be.
The United States is a country that holds at the crux of its democracy the notion of fair and equal representation for all citizens. Despite the image of America as a country devoted to social mobility and equality, the reality is that we have serious socio-economic, racial, and gender disparities. This schism is underscored by the lack of women’s representation in American government and business.  
Women make up about 51% of the American population and to fairly represent the people, women should hold about half of the elected seats in the House of Representatives (218 seats). In actuality, women currently hold 71 of those seats, or 16.3%. When women run for open seats, they often win – and as male incumbents retire, women make gains, but it’s a slow process. 
The United States is ranked 72nd in the international community for its lack of women’s political leadership. Disturbingly, this puts us behind countries like Afghanistan (31st), Iraq (40th), and even Pakistan (51st). We have been outpaced by republics, communist governments, and monarchies.