Everywhere you go and everywhere you look this year, celebrations of all kinds will be in progress, as people take part in the 200th birthday of the United States of America. In order to fully appreciate this Bicentennial year, the history and advancement of our great nation must be recalled. All phases – good and bad – must be looked at and, in doing so, guide us in surviving another 200. Due to the nature of their importance and effect on mankind, perhaps some of the more recent items in the news to come to mind are the space program, numerous foreign aid programs and, even more recently, startling developments in the White House. Although to what extent mankind has actually benefited from the above and other similar events can be debated, certainly the progress that women have made, are making and will continue to make, for the betterment of all, is becoming readily apparent. Even as the forefathers of our country were gathering to create a single document which was to serve as the basis for all Americans to coexist peacefully in a Terra Nova, Americans who had fled in an attempt to enjoy more freedom, religious and other, women were trying to bring to light the necessity of being allowed an opportunity to speak out and contribute to a new society which was to effect men and women as a whole.
Abigail Adams, wife of John, was among the first to attempt to gain equal rights for women as she suggested that her husband point out at his meetings with other politicians the need to have a more liberal view toward women. Although he was sympathetic to her views, his arguments fell upon deaf ears, for the others failed to see where a more liberal view of women’s ideas would be of any value, or benefit in conducting affairs of state, and so the muted role that women were then forced to play was created, perhaps through the instilling of obedience and timidness by man, or perhaps just through a plain lack of comprehension on their part of women’s actual capabilities – physical and mental. There was a deliberate attempt to hold women back that would prove very hard to break for many years. Back then it was thought that giving women equal rights, served no purpose and it wasn’t realized that, instead, this way of thinking was depriving the world of untapped resources. Only now are women experiencing the freedom never before allowed them to contribute in all possible ways to a world greatly in need of moral and technical help.
Until the turn of the 20th century. a woman was little more than a servant in the home, good only for cooking, mending clothes, raising children and other household chores. When menfolk were about to discuss important issues at hand, e.g., politics, church doctrines, womenfolk were banished to their sitting rooms to work on their needlepoint. However, due to Susan B Anthony’s efforts, which probably gave her a good case of ulcers as well, women were finally allowed the vote. But still, a woman could not get a word in edgewise. Having the vote appeared to be more detrimental than beneficial and, for a very long time, caused more resentment toward women’s involvement in public affairs where the men were already doing what had to be done. Further education was unheard of and, if a woman was crazy enough to try to achieve a professional status, e.g. doctor or lawyer, she was bound to have an empty waiting room to greet her each day. While at that time it can be shown that the majority of breakthroughs in all major fields of importance, such as medicine science and/or politics, were made by men, it should also be noted that women were at the same time denied the right to complete even a minimum of six years of elementary schooling in most cases, and trying for a masters or doctorate degree was considered insane if not downright impossible. It was generally felt that with men making all these great contributions, where was the need to educate the little woman?
Finally, in the middle of the 20th century, women decided to make themselves heard and to present their ideas to society as a whole. A movement, commonly referred to as Women’s Lib was launched and has continued to succeed in reforming the stereotype image of women’s role in the world. Cries that women are trying to take jobs away from deserving men – men who must bring home the bacon– are being recognized as unjust and the society is at last waking up to the need for women, who are themselves the breadwinners (due to divorce, deceased or disabled spouse), being allowed the opportunity to compete for jobs on equal terms, which jobs will enable these women and their families to go it alone financially, rather than seeking local support, in spite of a still existing, but steadily disappearing, such a prejudice. Hiring women over men, where women are equally qualified and capable, has now led to women being given the opportunity to demonstrate their abilities in ever-widening opportunities and activities, and now hold some of the most important public offices, political and commercial, from Congress on down and the one-time dream of seeing a woman take the presidential oath may become a reality in the not-too distant future.
So, as Bicentennial festivities draw to a close at midnight, December 31, 1976 women all over the world will be watching with great anticipation as America goes forth into a future hopefully in which determination of sex will no longer be a qualifying factor, nor inhibit women from expanding their knowledge and skills, and rising to heights unknown in a future where great minds, of both sexes, will work together to create equal rights, not only for women, but for all peoples of all races and religions, in short, to work toward ensuring that the future will always be one to be remembered and a part of our great historic nation.