We are two weeks away from one of the most important elections of our time. And as women, I think we're at a defining moment in history. It's amazing to imagine that women in the suffragette movement fought and finally won the right to vote a mere 100 years ago. Looking back, I've been surprised to learn of the many things women in the United States were unable to do only 50 years ago that we take for granted today. As we approach this election, I'm finding myself pausing to celebrate that and the other rights those who came before us fought for, so that I can draw inspiration to fight for the things we have yet to achieve as women.
And I'm using this post to not only share some of things I've learned, but to share some personal experiences.
The suffragist Aimee Hutchinson speaks to a crowd. Hutchinson, a New York Catholic-school teacher, was dismissed from her job for attending the 1912 suffrage parade. (Library of Congress).
It's hard to understand what it must have been like to not have some of the most basic rights that we as women have today. We have come a long way, all thanks to the commitment and drive from female leaders who came before us and spent decades fighting for our rights. Just last year, the 19th amendment had its 100th anniversary – a milestone that took several generations of women who marched, lectured, picketed, held silent vigils, and some even went on hunger strikes.
It wasn't until the Women's Rights movement in the 1960's and 1970's that women began to gain equal rights and more personal freedom. Until then, the world for American women was limited – they weren't allowed to serve jury duty, practice law, take birth control pills, go on maternity leave, breastfeed in public, attend an Ivy League University, seek a legal abortion, attend a military academy, or even run in the Boston Marathon. And despite all the hard work women have put into the military for decades, they weren't allowed in combat until in 2013. NASA denied women the right to become astronauts until Sally Ride broke the mold in 1978.
Women weren't allowed to open their own bank accounts until the 1960's. In 1974 the Equal Credit Opportunity Act passed, which prohibited credit discrimination on the basis of gender. Before its passage, many banks granted credit cards to women only with their husband's signature and outright refused to issue them to unmarried women. As a female business owner, having a bank account and a credit card are essential to my operation and I can't imagine having those rights denied.
I’ve always had drive and ambition. I get it from my dad. He was the instigator when it came to me working towards my dreams. He would often ask me what I wanted to do and I would have some wild answer like, “I want to play tennis at Wimbledon” or, “I want to be in the fashion business”. And he would always have the same response: “Go for it”. He had no tolerance for whining or making excuses. And when I was 10, I told him that I wanted to be a boxer (true story), and the answer was exactly the same. And so my training began. The next morning I cracked open a couple of eggs, and drank them raw, wrapped a towel around my neck and ran around our neighborhood, just like my hero, Rocky did. My dad and I would then spar in the living room. And although my pursuit of a boxing career was short, it was this beautiful freedom that I felt growing up with no gender bias clouding any of my dreams that molded my perspective of what was possible for a girl. The goal my dad instilled in me was to simply have that enduring pursuit of a dream. And I think it was pretty profound having a cheerleader coming from the male side. That was powerful. If my dad thought I could do it and he was a successful athlete and businessman, then I could do “that” too.
This ideal presented some hard truths as I became an adult. I learned that not all men appreciate women with drive. It turns out that some men I’ve encountered professionally and personally believe that women who know what they want and speak to it clearly are, “pushy”, “bossy”, “need to calm down”. To this day, that is still sometimes my experience. I have worked as hard as anyone else, I’ve proven myself to be successful and yet, sometimes, I have to fight extra hard to be heard and taken seriously.
As a woman, I've never looked for a hand up, a head start, or special treatment. What I've always fought for is fairness, inclusion, and a seat at the table without it being noteworthy or frowned up. And for many women, the fight is for equal pay and basic health care. I'm incredibly blessed and grateful for all that I've achieved here in America, but I wonder, how can I truly be content with what I have if I know there are so many others who aren't being given equal opportunity? And I often wonder what difference my solo actions make in the scheme of things. But when I'm reminded of all the women who have come before us and all the women today who are making a difference to the lives of women all over the country, I know that individually we make a difference. Women are as essential to the fabric of humanity as men. We bring compassion, hard work, dedication, empathy, and doing right by women is doing right by the world. And you only have to reference the Declaration of Independence to understand that we're all created equal.
You can make a difference. Your ideals and dreams matter. Your voice matters. Your vote matters. Our country and our world needs you. It's our job to exercise our hard-fought right to vote. For election information and voter deadlines, visit vote.org where you can check your registration, get state specific details and deadlines and even sign up for election reminders. Don't wait. Do it today.
Sending love and admiration to all you women,
I love your perspective and love reading your heartfelt and approach to business on your blogs… Go Caroline !
Thank you for a great read. It’s an important reminder of how critical it is to usher in a new administration, as the current trajectory of the White House, Senate and Supreme Court threaten to take away many of these hard-fought rights!