Women Rights in the USA: On the Amazing Strides of American Women

Published on Global Research.ca, by Sherwood Ross, Nov. 22, 2010.

That we take the concept of full equality for women today for granted shows how far women have progressed when only 50 years ago they constituted America’s largest untapped human resource; when only 6% of all doctors, 3% of all lawyers, and fewer than 1% of all engineers were women; when no woman could compete in the Boston Marathon and when every woman needed her husband’s permission even to get a credit card. In the comparatively short span since, American women have made astonishing progress, from legal secretaries to lawyers, from nurses to doctors; from kitchen menials to astronauts, and from USO hostesses to front-line warriors. Their dramatic story is charted in the new book by New York Times columnist Gail Collins in “When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present (Little Brown).” 

Back in the Sixties, “It was legal to say that women couldn’t be in management, because it was bad for the men,” Collins tells interviewer Diane Sullivan, a professor at the Massachusetts School of Law at Andover, producers of “Educational Forum,” on Comcast SportsNet to be aired at 11 A.M. Sunday, November 28th … //

… Today, Collins notes, 50 percent of the workforce is female and “We rely more on women’s labor than any other developed country in the world, and yet we have not figured out who’s supposed to be taking care of the kids while everybody’s at work. It’s just amazing.” However, she says, many of the get-ahead women have paid a price for their success. “If you look at the women who do really make it to the top, particularly in law and business, most of them don’t have kids. They’re married, often, but they don’t have kids and the ones who do are, God bless them, incredible.” The tough kinds of jobs they are filling, Collins says, often require large commitments of time which is hard to find when women also have the primary responsibility for raising children. “And I think that explains most of the things that we look out there and see. Why do women still make, on average, less than men per hour? Why are there still not even a third of the House and Senate female? Women start political careers later than men do and that’s primarily because they wait until their kids are older because it’s such a time commitment.”

Collins goes on to point out that the Army “has been very slow in dealing with what happens to the kids when their mother’s suddenly shipped overseas” even while it has integrated them into combat positions. The changes in the military occurred “when it had to change for practical reasons.” She noted that the public had been generally accepting of the idea that women could serve as nurses “but they were very uncomfortable with the idea of women being in combat and there were lots of fights about what women’s role would be.” Women “were really discriminated against as to what they could do within the military,” she continues. “And even as we went into this period of huge change, after the changes there were still rules that said women could not serve in combat positions, which most people in the country really supported…And it was hard on the women in the military, in the sense that most of the jobs…are combat positions…and, for heaven’s sake, that’s what they’re there for.” The big change occurred during the Gulf War when it became hard to define what a front-line position was. “Suddenly, you’re in Iraq driving a truck (and it) is a combat position, and suddenly you have all these women being killed, women being taken prisoner, (and) all the things that happen to guys tend to happen to women now, and the country has just sort of rolled with it. I’ve not seen one uprising of, ‘Oh, my God, a woman was killed in combat, how could it happen?’”

Collins said those in the women’s movement would really know they won on the day when a woman occupied the White House. “and they were so sure it was going to be Hillary Clinton and when it wasn’t—when suddenly, this guy came along out of nowhere and took it all, they were shocked and angry…but Obama won fair and square.” Nevertheless, Collins pointed out, Clinton made the public “get used to the idea that a woman could be the Commander-in-Chief, and that’s an incredible triumph and some other woman is going to get to be President because of her.” Asked what most impressed her doing research for her book, Collins replied, “The women who knock me out are the ones who just stand up and say, ‘This is what I’m going to do when there is nobody around them who thinks it’s a good idea. Now we’re really used to ‘You go, girl’ and you get support no matter what you want to do.” But the women who stood up alone and said it early on were the real pioneers, never to be forgotten, at least, not by Gail Collins.

“Educational Forum” is produced by the Massachusetts School of Law at Andover, a law school established for the express purpose of providing a rigorous, affordable legal education to students who would otherwise be unable to afford law school and enter the legal profession. One mission of the law school is to disseminate information on issues of vital public concern, which it does through its publications and broadcasts. (full text).

(Sherwood Ross, who formerly reported for the Chicago Daily News, is a media consultant to the Massachusetts School of Law at Andover. Reach him by e-mail. Articles by Sherwood Ross).

Comments are closed.