DID YA KNOW: MARCH IS A CELEBRATION OF WOMEN’S CONTRIBUTIONS FOR A BETTER WORLD?
Historically, generations of women have been taught they must accept male domination over their bodies and their lives. It began in the 4th Century, as Christian tenants of belief were being reinterpreted to accommodate the power of Rome in exchange for positions of influence. Christian moralists redefined the Genesis myth to portray women as the source of temptation and evil, reinforcing male domination, in spite of fellow theologians that continued to proclaim that the Christian gospels were a message of freedom. Gnostic teachings were eventually suppressed and orthodox churches became more rigidly institutionalized eventually leading to civil laws that defined women and children as the ‘property’ of a husband or a male member of her family. For many women around the world this is still their way of life.
During the Revolutionary Period, educating women meant educating ‘mothers’ with enough basic training to nurture the minds and bodies of (male) future citizens and leaders. Equity Law, which developed in England during the 19th century, had a liberalizing effect upon the legal rights of women in the United States. Unions were organized to create coalitions of laboring members, enabling them to bargain for better working conditions, higher pay and limits on working hours. Hard-won initiatives, passed at the first Women’s Rights Convention in 1848, gradually developed into legislation that allowed women to own property, upheld their rights to privacy, gave them access to equal consideration under the law and opened the doors to educational and career opportunities.
Women had been excluded from the professions because they could not gain entry into secondary institutions for education. Most colleges hired only male faculty, there were no women’s courses of study and very few role models. ‘Experts’ claimed that females were incapable of higher learning due to their intellectual and moral weakness. Women’s refusal to accept the traditions of single-sex educational elitism became the driving force behind the building and success of women’s colleges in the United States. When American women gained the right to vote, in 1920, the door opened for entry into the political arena and legislation was enacted, in 1979, prohibiting gender discrimination by federally funded institutions.
In 1978, a movement began in Sonoma, California with a “Women’s History Week” celebration. Three years later, Congress passed a resolution establishing a ‘National Women’s History Week” that expanded into the entire month of March. This event provides the opportunity to recognize and honor the contributions of women to our society, to our culture and to our country.
Today, women are elected as representatives for state and national office. They hold positions as advisors and international ambassadors. They are members of the Presidential cabinet, the court system and are found in all levels of military service. Women participate in social action, education and religious reform movements. They take their places in the science labs, on the athletic fields, and even in outer space. Traditional views of women and their role in society will continue to evolve as the next generation speaks out for a better world in the 21st Century. “The Work Goes On.”
For additional reading: “Women’s History Month” at httn://nwhp.org/whm/honorees2012.php
and “Unitarian Universalist Women in Times of War and Peace” at www.uua.org
Pat Vaughn 03/2021