Wednesday, October 21, 2009

FROM A FACE ON A DOLLAR


In listening to my biographies of influential women I have rediscovered an appreciation.

Within the body I inhabit, there is incredible power. And I am grateful to women like Susan B. Anthony and Simone de Beauvoire who recognized that this power deserves recognition of equal to that of a man.

It boggles my mind to know that before Ms. Anthony and others went to bat for the gentler sex, women in America were the property of their husbands. And their husbands become the owners of the children these women birthed. If a woman held a job, her wages were paid directly to her husband.

Imagine that world, if you will. Imagine it being the same person you are today. A person with abilities, ideas, opinions, and impulses. It’s unconscionable to me that women such as we were confined to what Ms. Anthony called “legalized slavery” and were denied rights to which we don’t give thought today.

That isn’t the world we live in any longer, and until recently, I had forgotten to be grateful for that.

The historical subjugation of women seems laughable today. Just try to contain me. You’ll be unsuccessful, for I have a mind and a will with the ability to make miraculous things come to pass. It’s there inside me, that capacity to be outstanding and influential. The suffragists recognized it and did you and I the favor of enabling our explosive power to be useful and not wasted.

There was a time when women were not to write or to publish. Maryann Evans, known to most as George Elliot, author of Silas Marner and Middlemarch, is one of the more widely required authors in the high school canon and college curriculum, but to make her books available to a public that would laud them, she had to submit her works under a man’s pseudonym.

Such is not the case today. I can write imaginative, excoriating, sordid, superfluous, and stimulating bits, and it’s not only acceptable that I do it as a woman, it’s common and even applauded.

Are we taking advantage of the extraordinary within us that women like Susan B. celebrated to the point of movement?

If you’re a stay at home mom, I’m not encouraging you to get a job just because you can. Instead, I encourage you to give thanks for the fact that if you did have one, your money would be yours. If you have children, be grateful that they don’t belong, as property, to the man whose sperm contributed to them. Be grateful that your wages are you own. Be thankful that you can make more money than your mate. Give thanks that you can vote. Appreciate that you can sue and be sued. For thousands of years intelligent, potent gals like you and I were denied those simple privileges we enjoy today.

Do we have a way to go still? In some cases, most certainly, but in respect to some rights I believe all humanity deserve--independence of action and thought--by the mere act of being born, the progress we’ve made is indisputable and yet still under appreciated.

So appreciate it.

4 comments:

Jessica said...

yes! this has been my mind after watching "Iron Jawed Angels" in one of my classes. A movie about Alice Paul and Lucy Burn. The more radical of the suffragists. I highly recommend it, although there are some scenes that are not for the faint of heart or the weak in stomach.

There is so much we take for granted. So much we have because of the sacrifice of these women.

Misti said...

It drives me absolutely batty when a woman says she doesn't vote. Less than a 100 years we've had that 'right'. Gah!

tom lindsey said...

I have not actually seen one of my paychecks in 19 years and I cooked my own diner last night [ breakfast cereal ]. The pendulum has swung too far ...

And who do I see about my long overdue dowry?

Greeneyes said...

Well said. I am honored to be a woman in this day and especially in this country. Choked as the system is with red tape and bureaucracy, I defy anyone to find a better place for us to carry our femininity with grace, pride, and ample opportunity.