A group of conservative Democrats* elected to the 116th Congress—some of them new to the House—seem determined to sabotage the possibility of success for their party in a hard-won election. Their go…
*including Kurt Schrader (D-OR)
WASHINGTON — The National Organization for Women (NOW) is proud to endorse Nancy Pelosi to reclaim her position as Speaker of the House. The first woman in
We need to Flood these Members with Calls!
Today NOW announced our endorsement of Nancy Pelosi for Speaker. But Leader Pelosi is in need of immediate calls to organizers of an effort to prevent her from being elected Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. A very serious challenge to Leader Pelosi – primarily by a small group of men and some newly-elected members – is poised to prevent her from gaining a majority vote in the House Democratic Caucus. Meetings are beginning today so your call is critically important.
The effort has been instigated by a vile smear campaign by Republicans. The result is: a challenge to Leader Pelosi instigated by #FiveWhiteGuys: Reps. Seth Moulton (Mass.), Tim Ryan (Ohio), Bill Foster (Ill.), Ed Perlmutter (Colo.) and Kurt Schrader (Ore.). They are circulating a letter opposing Leader Pelosi for signatures among the 22 current and incoming members who have said that they may not support her and among other House members. We need to do what we can to stop this.
Please call those five Representatives NOW. Even though you may not be a constituent in their Congressional Districts, please tell the receptionist that you are calling on behalf of the many NOW members who are their constituents.
HERE’S YOUR MESSAGE: Hello, we are calling on behalf of the hundreds of NOW members who reside in your state and your district. NOW is supporting Leader Nancy Pelosi for Speaker of the House; we need a proven capable and talented leader in these turbulent times. Democrats must present a united front. Leader Pelosi has shown that she can unite Democrats to pass progressive legislation; it was her leadership that got the Affordable Care Act passed. I am asking you get behind Leader Pelosi because she is the very best candidate for Speaker and to urge your colleagues to support her election.
Members to call:
Rep. Seth Moulton (Massachusetts) – 202-225-8020
Rep. Bill Foster (Illinois) – 202-225-3515
Rep. Ed Perlmutter (Colorado) – 202-225-2645
Rep. Tim Ryan (Ohio) – 202-225-5201
Rep. Kurt Schrader (Oregon) – 202-225-5711
For Women’s Lives and Happiness,
Toni Van Pelt
– Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony (1900)
Nancy Pelosi isn’t the only one who’s been visited by the suffragists. In fact, they came to see me first. While I was writing a paper late one night, they appeared in my dining room. Tell our story. Don’t just do an academic exercise, they insisted. “That’s not what the professor assigned,” I argued, rubbing my eyes. But they would not be denied. Night after night, as I tried to write my paper, the suffragists demanded, Tell OUR story!
And so I did. I wrote a play about an imaginary reunion of four founders of the suffragist movement. In my script, they comment on the current political landscape using their own words from the 1800s. Sadly, their perspectives and warnings seem timeless.
My play has been performed five times over nearly 20 years, updated each time to include the latest assault on women’s rights. The script keeps getting longer. And after each sold-out performance, I’m flooded with confessions from the audience that they know very little about our foremothers.
The audience doesn’t know the story because history books don’t elaborate on these crusaders who were shouted down, ridiculed, spat upon, kicked, shoved, jailed, force-fed and even killed. All because they wanted to vote, a right we now take for granted—a dangerous apathy since the Supreme Court recently gutted the Voting Rights Act. We must tell the story of these forgotten heroes who put their lives on the line just to participate in the democratic process. Because it is our story.
And there’s not just one story to be told; the suffrage leaders were all very different, yet came together for a common cause. Susan B. Anthony refused several offers of marriage, declaring that she never wanted to be “a man’s housekeeper.” She taught school, earning four times less than her male colleagues. Her family was Quaker so did not vote, yet suffrage became her lifelong passion.
Lucretia Mott, painting by Joseph Kyle, 1842
Her closest friend and collaborator, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, had seven children. She deleted the word “obey” from her marriage vows and refused to be called Mrs. Henry Stanton, saying women deserve names of their own. Her father disowned her for advocating for suffrage; she persisted. Stanton credited Lucretia Mott with teaching her that she had the right to think for herself, to be guided by her own convictions. Mott, called “a brazen infidel,” was a fascinating combination of serene and radical. She was a Quaker minister, yet was not allowed to speak because of her gender when she traveled to the World Anti-Slavery Convention in London. She then co-authored the Declaration of Sentiments with Stanton, the first salvo for women’s equality in this country.
Sojourner Truth, c. 1870
Sojourner Truth is the fourth woman brought back to life in my play although, in reality, white suffragists were not inclusive of black women. Truth was a slave who saw most of her 13 children sold into slavery. Freed at the age of 46, she traveled the country preaching for the liberation of her people. Yet the passage of the 15th amendment in 1870, granting black men the right to vote first, troubled her: “… If colored men get their rights, and not colored women, the colored men will be masters over the women, and it will be just as bad as it was before. …” She became a strong advocate for women’s suffrage, as was abolitionist Frederick Douglass.
Lucy Stone, who re-wrote her marriage vows in 1855 to protest the civil laws that gave the husband custody of the wife, was the first woman known to have kept her birth name after marriage. But Stanton did not invite her to this theatrical reunion because they disagreed over their primary mission. Stone stuck to voting rights, but Stanton held out for total equality, even writing The Woman’s Bible in 1895. Stanton believed, “… The battle is not wholly fought until we stand equal in the church, the world of work, and have an equal code of morals for both sexes.” She understood that the feminist whole is greater than its parts.
In my re-enactment, Mott counsels women’s groups to be inclusive, keeping our eyes on the prize. Yet Truth expresses concern that some women in politics today do not embrace the feminist message that all people are created equal, and that the law must uphold such equality.
What troubles me even more than the fact that the audience often doesn’t know the story of these women is that most viewers have seemingly not thought about our lack of progress since that time. Almost 100 years since the 19th Amendment was ratified, the suffragists in the play are shocked to learn that less than 20 percent of Congressional seats are held by women, only 4 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs are women and women are poorer than men in all racial and ethnic groups. Theirs was an incomplete victory, they realize with great disappointment.
256px-LucyStone-sigWhen commenting on which political party is more supportive of women’s rights, the suffragist characters make it clear that women’s suffrage was closely aligned with the Republican Party (Democrat Woodrow Wilson was not a fan), but they felt abandoned by that party once abolition was achieved. As they broke away, Stanton stated, “So far from giving us a helping hand, Republicans and Abolitionists, by their false philosophy—that the safety of the nation demands ignorance rather than education at the polls—have paralyzed the women themselves.” The suffrage newspaper The Revolution concluded, “The party out of power is always in a position to carry principles to their logical conclusions, while the party in power thinks only of what it can afford to do.” Perhaps that is the crux of our incomplete victories as feminists today.
My play is titled The Stone that Started the Ripple [PDF], drawn from one of Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s last speeches:
Our successors have a big work before them—much bigger, in fact, than they imagine. We were only the stone that started the ripple, but you are the ripple that is spreading and will eventually cover the whole pond.
Echoing her impassioned speech from 1870, Susan B. Anthony declares in the play,
I do pray … for some terrific shock to startle the women of this nation into a self‑respect which will compel them to see the abject degradation of their present position … which will make them proclaim their allegiance to women first. …Oh, to give them the courage and conscience to speak and act for their own freedom, though they face the scorn and contempt of all the world for doing it!
That “terrific shock” has come: Dwindling access to health care and contraception. Transvaginal ultrasounds. Gender slurs by media personalities and politicians. “Legitimate” rape. Pay inequity. Human trafficking. In short, a surge in the War on Women. It’s long-past time to be startled.
None of these suffragists lived to legally cast a ballot. On her deathbed, Susan B. Anthony told a New York Times reporter, “To think I have had more than 60 years of hard struggle for a little liberty, and then to die without it seems so cruel.”
She died 108 years ago today, on March 13. Let’s recommit to changing the narrative so that our descendants will not have to tell yet another story of forgotten heroes and incomplete victories.
All images from Wikimedia Commons
In addition to her play about the early suffragists, The Stone that Started the Ripple, Patricia A. Nugent is also the author of They Live On: Saying Goodbye to Mom and Dad, a compilation of vignettes portraying the stages of caring for and saying goodbye to a loved one.
Mark Sanford lied to the people of South Carolina when he was governor by leaving the state ungoverned for five days while he visited his mistress, spent taxpayer funds to go there, broke the law by trespassing in the home of his ex-wife, published the telephone numbers of people who called him, and showed other instances of unethical behavior. This is the candidate who has just been elected to the District #1 of South Carolina, defeating Elizabeth Colbert Busch.
Larry Flynt, publisher of Hustler, called Sanford “America’s great sex pioneer,” and said in his endorsement of the candidate, “Mark Sanford has demonstrated by his words and deeds that traditional values are shameful and that he will not live by such rules.” And now the conservatives of South Carolina have chosen a “sex pioneer,” who demonstrates “that traditional values are shameful” to represent them.
Joining a group of hypocrites and downright ignorant GOP lawmakers in Congress, Mark Sanford was able to run for his new position after Gov. Nikki Haley (R) appointed Rep. Tim Scott (R-SC) to senator after Jim DeMint (R) left to head up the ultra-conservative Heritage Foundation. Arriving in Washington on the Tea Party wave of 2010, Scott’s actions demonstrate what we have come to expect from conservatives:
- Impeach President Obama because the conservatives claimed that the debt ceiling is an unconstitutional infringement on the 14th Amendment.
- Cut off food stamps for a family if one member goes on strike—no exceptions for children or other dependents.
- Spend an unlimited amount of taxpayer money to display the Ten Commandments outside a county building in Charleston to “remind council members and speakers the moral absolutes they should follow.”
- Protect over $50 billion in oil subsidies at the same time that oil companies are raking in tens of billions in profit every quarter.
Although South Carolina has only six Congressional districts, one-sixth of those in Texas, the state seems to be cornering part of the market on crazy. Last week, Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC) introduced a bill to bar the U.S. Census Bureau from conducting almost all surveys except for its decennial population count. If this were to pass, President Obama couldn’t be criticized for the unemployment rate: the bill removes statistics for that. Businesses, researchers, academics, and government agencies would lose information about commuting, income, family structure, education, housing, and finance. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) proposed making part of the this survey optional. Actually, they already are.
Duncan’s proposal, with 10 co-sponsors, would also eliminate the agricultural census, economic census, government census, and mid-decade census. Also lost would be the measurement of the nation’s GDP. Duncan has other bizarre positions, some of them about the Boston bombing, which led the patient Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to say that his ignorant inquiries were “full of misstatements and misapprehensions,” and “not worthy of an answer.”
In an attempt to keep up with South Carolina, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) introduced a bill, ironically called the “High Quality Research Act,” to mandate that any research using federal funds—and there’s lots of that in the United States—must have its results and findings approved by the House Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation of the Senate and the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. If those House representatives don’t agree to the findings, then the research is removed from those who performed the studies and then disposed of. Smith claims that “the intent of the draft legislation is to ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent on the highest-quality research possible.” With a couple of college science courses, he also sees himself as a “peer” to the researchers.
Smith voted to bar the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases, voted no several times on tax credits for renewable energy and incentives for energy production and conservation, voted against raising fuel efficiency standards, and rejected implementation of the Kyoto Protocol. In addition, he denies that climate change has been caused by humans. Chair of the science committee, he is its most moderate GOP member.
Several senators joined in the conspiracy theory that Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) announced on MSNBC about the Obama administration deliberately orchestrating airline delays. “The administration is clearly manufacturing a crisis for political gain,” Toomey said. The short term fix for air-traffic controller furloughs comes out of airport repair and improvement, a move which will start long-term delays in a few years.
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) has brought back the disgusting term “anchor babies.” While discussing immigration reform at a town hall meeting last week, he insisted on border control before allowing undocumented immigrants a “probationary” status. Ryan wants to change the constitution so that people don’t come into the United States and have children. “That’s what they call it, anchor babies.”
During the same town hall meetings, Ryan suffered serious memory lapses. When an EPA worker talked about losing thousands in his income because of the sequester, the House Budget Committee Chairman blamed the president for the sequester, failing to remember that he bragged about the GOP getting legal caps on spending with the sequester. His excuse now is that the president won’t promote Ryan’s budget plan. Ryan, however, failed to tell the EPA employee that the Ryan budget plan guts the EPA.
Governors aren’t exempt from ignorant prejudice. In Pennsylvania where Tom Corbett (R) has low job approval ratings and economic recovery, he tried to explain why his state is 49th in the nation for job creation last March. “There are many employers that say we’re looking for people but we can’t find anybody that has passed a drug test, a lot of them.” His state has a pilot program that requires drug testing for those convicted of felony drug offenses who apply for welfare. In the past 15 months, only two people have failed these tests.
Also on the state level, California GOP Assembly President Celeste Greig voiced agreement with Todd Akin’s infamous “legitimate rape” comment:
“Granted, the percentage of pregnancies due to rape is small because it’s an act of violence, because the body is traumatized. I don’t know what percentage of pregnancies are due to the violence of rape. Because of the trauma the body goes through, I don’t know what percentage of pregnancy results from the act.”
California is not as understanding as other states: the Assembly voted her out, but only by six votes.
North Carolina State Senator Tommy Tucker summarized how the GOP feels about the people in the United States. A recent bills that he pushed through committee is to not inform people with important government decisions through omitting the requirement that the government publish legal notices about these decisions—such as a sewage plant in the neighborhood. Questioned by the Charlotte Observer about his bill, Tucker said:
“I am the senator. You are the citizen. You need to be quiet.”
This is where the United States is going these days—everyone should just be quiet.
[Note: The Republican Party has removed the word “Republican” from its website: now it’s just NRCC. Currently in their attempt to attract minorities, it has an article called “The History about Cinco de Mayo That You Might Not Know.” The article headlined “Nancy Pelosi: The Least Liked Person in Congress” is actually about only the four Congressional leaders. Rep. Pelosi (D-CA) is actually tied with House Speaker John Boehner at 31 percent favorability. Always interesting to see how the GOP—excuse me, the NRCC—twists and tortures the facts.]