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Stateside with Rosalea: Adam's Rib, 2003


Stateside with Rosalea

Adam's Rib, 2003

By Rosalea Barker

The entry on my calendar says that 26 August was Equality Day: "1920 - US women win right to vote with ratification of 19th amendment. 72 year struggle for woman suffrage is victorious." My Oxford Companion to United States History says the movement is dated from an 1848 convention held in Seneca Falls, New York, to discuss the "Social, Civil, and Religious Condition of Woman."

Between 1846 and 1851 eleven states called conventions to redraft their constitutions, and many of the early conventions on women's rights were organised in response to those. Under the curious subhead "From the Civil Wart to 1890" - sorry, just had to have a dig at the Oxford University Press! - the Companion says that the Civil War curtailed the women's rights conventions.

So really, the bulk of the struggle for "woman suffrage" came in the years between 1893, when Colorado became the first state to give (some) women the vote, and 1920 - with the bulk of the action happening between 1910 and 1920. That was the era of Progressive politics, during which time "local reformers adopted 'initiative, referendum, and recall' measures enabling voters to initiate legislation, ratify legislative acts, and remove public officials who violated their trust."

Which brings us neatly to the present day and the California recall election. And this morning's appearance by Governor Gray Davis in a lengthy interview on ABC's This Week. I confess to being somewhat flummoxed by his sudden assertion that his wife is a blessing from God and has brought him back to God, until I watched another talk-fest over on NBC. There, a White House correspondent said that Laura Bush is being wheeled out in the campaign to save GW's falling popularity. Barbara Bush, too, is having a book published later this year.

Of course the White House correspondent didn't use the term "being wheeled out," but that's what it amounts to (for both Bush and Davis), doesn't it? There's nothing makes a man look better than that his feisty little wife - a woman of integrity, good taste and judgement, intelligence and acumen - is sticking up for him. Who are we to question Her choice?

I don't mean "Her" in any divine sense; just that we are asked to say "In Her we trust" and vote accordingly. Heaven forbid that I would mock the Creator, who, according to the Declaration of Independence, has endowed me with certain inalienable rights - namely life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Oops, my mistake, that was men only. But most people do interpret "men" as meaning "humankind" these days. And some, it seems, interpret "Creator" as meaning one particular deity only, if this following statement from Rev. Robert Schenck of the Evangelical Church Alliance on the Jim Lehrer NewsHour in the middle of the week is anything to go by. He was asked by the news anchor, Gwen Ifill, why the battle over the display of the Ten Commandments at a courthouse in Alabama was a big issue. He replied:

"Well, first because the declaration of independence says that our rights, which are secured by the Constitution, come from our Creator, with a capital C - a personal Creator. And all the Ten Commandments do is simply explain who that Creator is and what the nature of that Creator is."

Would "God almighty!" be an appropriate expression of incredulity at this juncture? Talk about cultural arrogance! In my humble opinion, back in 1776 "Creator" was deliberately being used as an inclusive, *not* an exclusive, term. It's long past time in this country for a convention on the "Social, Civil, and Religious Condition of Common Sense", don't you think?

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