A Tribute to Womanhood

Welcome to "I Am Woman"...a tribute to all those women who had the courage and perseverance to stand up and fight for their rights. Thanks to those who came before us we enjoy a freedom unknown to women not too long ago. But, sadly, in many parts of the world, women continue to be repressed. In fact, even in this country there are women living today under the threat of violence...completely controlled by a violent spouse. Some may make it; others won't. Hopefully, one day ALL women will be free. May that day come soon.


Labor Day (Repost)

1765  The first society of working women, the 'Daughters of Liberty', is organized.

1824  Women workers strike for the first time in history at Pawtucket, Rhode Island. 102 women workers strike in support of brother weavers protesting the simultaneous reduction in wages and extension of the workday.

1825  'The United Tailoresses of New York' is formed.  It is the first union for women only.

1831  In February of this year, almost 1600 women, all members of the United Tailoresses of New York, strike for "a just price for our labor."

1845  The 'Female Labor Reform Association' is formed in Lowell, Massachusetts by Sarah Bagley and other women cotton mill workers to reduce the work day from 12 or 13 hours a day to 10, and to improve sanitation and safety in the mills where they worked.

1853  Antoinette Brown becomes the first U.S. woman to be ordained as a Protestant minister.

1867  Cigar makers are the first national union to accept women and African Americans.  

1869  In July, women shoemakers form the 'Daughters of St. Crispin', the first national union of women workers, at Lynn, Massachusetts.

1872  Congress passes a law giving women federal employee equal pay for equal work.

1881  In Atlanta, Georgia almost 3,000 black women laundry workers stage one of the largest and most effective strikes in the history of the south. 

1888 Suffragists win passage of a law requiring women doctors for women patients in mental institutions.

1889  Jane Adams founds Hull House in Chicago to assist the poor. It becomes a model for many other settlement houses and establishes social work as a profession for women.

1892  Mary Kenney O'Sullivan of the Bindery Workers is appointed the AFL's first female national organizer.

1898 Charlotte Perkins Gillman wrote 'Women and Economics' which argues that women need to be economically independent.

1899  The National Consumers League is formed with Florence Kelley as its president. The League organizes women to use their power as consumers to push for better working conditions and protective law for women workers.

1903  Mary Harris "Mother Jones" Jones leads a protest march of mill children, many of who were victims of industrial accidents, from Philadelphia to New York, At the AFL convention in Boston, women unionists unite to form the National Women's Trade Union League and elect Mary Morton Kehew president and Jane Addams vice-president. The National Women's Trade Union League (WTUL) is established to advocate for improved wages and working conditions for women.

1909   20,000 female shirtwaist workers in New York State strike against sweatshop conditions.

1910  The wives of striking miners arrested in Greensburg, Pennsylvania sing their way out of jail under the leadership of Mother Jones.

1912  In Lawrence, Massachusetts the IWW leads a strike of 23,000 men, women and children in the  "Bread & Roses" Strike, hailed as the first successful multi-ethnic strike (see History Matters).

Teddy Roosevelt's Bull Moose Party became the first major political party to include a woman's suffrage plank in its official platform.

1916  Jeannette Rankin became the first women elected to the United States House of Representatives. Ms. Rankin served two terms in the House from (1916-1918 and (1940-1942)

1917  During WWI women's wartime work in heavy industry and public service jobs expanded women's roles in society.

1919  August 26, United Mine Workers' organizer Fannie Sellins, a widowed mother of four, is shot to death by coal company guards while leading strikers in Brackenridge, Pennsylvania.

1920  The Women's Bureau of the Department of Labor is formed to collect information about women in the workforce and safeguard good working conditions for women

1931  In September, Clara Holden, National Textile Workers' Union organizer is abducted and beaten by vigilantes in Greenville, South Carolina.

1933  Francis Perkins, the first women in a presidential cabinet, served as Secretary of Labor throughout the Roosevelt administration, 1933-1945.

1934  Florence Ellinwood Allen becomes first woman on US Court of Appeals

1935  Mary McLeod Bethune organizes the National Council of Negro Women, a coalition of black women's groups that lobbies against job discrimination, racism, and sexism.

1936  President FDR appointed Ms. Bethune to serve as director or Negro Affairs of the National Youth Administration in 1936 making her the first African-American women to be a presidential advisor.

1941  The shortage of workers caused by WWII opens a wide range of high-paying jobsto women. Almost seven million women enter the workforce, including two million in heavy industry.
1961  President John Kennedy establishes the President's Commission on the Status of Women and appoints Eleanor Roosevelt as chairwoman. The report issued by the Commission in 1963 documents substantial discrimination against women in the workplace and makes specific recommendations for improvement, including fair hiring practices, paid maternity leave, and affordable child care.

1963  In June, Congress passes the Equal Pay Act, making it illegal for employers to pay a woman less than what a man would receive for the same job.

1964  Title VII of the Civil Rights Act bars discrimination in employment on the basis of race and sex. At the same time it establishes the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to investigate complaints and impose penalties.

1965  Aileen Hernandex was the first woman appointed to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In 1971 she was elected president of NOW.

1966  The National Org for Women NOW is formed  by a group of feminists including Betty Friedan. The largest women's rights group in the U.S. NOW seeks to end sexual discrimination, especially in the workplace, by means of legislative lobbying, litigation, and public demonstrations.

1967  Executive Order 11375 expands President Lyndon Johnson's affirmative action policy of 1965 to cover discrimination based on gender. As a result, federal agencies and contractors must take active measures to ensure that women as well as minorities enjoy the same educational and employment opportunities as white males.

1968  The EEOC rules that sex-segregated help wanted ads in newspapers are illegal. This ruling is upheld in 1973 by the Supreme Court, opening the way for women to apply for higher-paying jobs hitherto open only to men.

Shirley Chisholm is the first Black woman elected to U.S. Congress.  

1969  Mary Moultrie organizes the successful strike of 550 black women hospital workers for union representation in Charleston, South Carolina.

1970  In Schultz v. Wheaton Glass Co., a U.S. Court of Appeals rules that jobs held by men and women need to be "substantially equal" but not "identical" to fall under the protection of the Equal Pay Act. An employer cannot, for example, change the job titles of women workers in order to pay them less than men.

1972  The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) is passed by Congress and sent to the states for ratification. Originally drafted by Alice Paul in 1923, the amendment reads: "Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex." The amendment died in 1982 when it failed to achieve ratification by a minimum of 38 states. 

1974  In Corning Glass Works v. Brennan, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that employers cannot justify paying women lower wages because that is what they traditionally received under the "going market rate." A wage differential occurring "simply because men would not work at the low rates paid women" is unacceptable.

November 13, Karen Gay Silkwood, a lab tech at the Cimeron plutonium plant and officer of the Oil, Chemical, and Atomic Workers Union local in Oklahoma City dies mysteriously en route to a union meeting with a newspaper reporter.

1978  The Pregnancy Discrimination Act bans employment discrimination against pregnant women. Under the Act, a woman cannot be fired or denied a job or a promotion because she is or may become pregnant, nor can she be forced to take a pregnancy leave if she is willing and able to work.

100,000 women and men march in support of the Equal Rights Amendment in Washington, D.C.

1981  Sandra Day O'Connor was the first woman appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

1983  Sally Ride was the first American woman in space.

1985  Wilma Mankiller became the first woman Principal Chief of a major American Indian tribe, the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma.

1990  Women serve in combat for the first time, during the Gulf War.

And this is not, by any means, the end of it.  The list continues to grow.  Let us take this Labor Day to salute these women who came before us and paved the way for our rights. 

My Story Repost

Rape is forced and unwanted. It is about power, not sex, and it can happen to both men and women of any age. The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) defines rape as: "The penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim."

Forty-six years ago, I was like a giddy teenager dressing for the prom.  This was the 'one'.  I just knew he had to be it.  When you grow up in an alcoholic and verbally abusive household, every one is the 'one'.  You are so starved for love that you look beyond the obvious and see only what you want to see.  Hence, you fall into many bad situations.  Had I not been so blinded by any flattering attention that came my way, I would have seen the obvious.  John (not his real name) was a control freak and a drinker. We had plans to go dancing that night, and as I whirled about the living room in my new dress, I never imagined the nightmare that was to come.

In the 60's, New York's drinking age was 18, so we headed over the border to a little club in New York State where we danced the night away.  I had a fabulous time, and maybe a bit too much to drink. Perhaps that is why I hadn't noticed the sly glance between my date and his two friends who had asked for a ride home.  Had I been more alert, I would not have gotten into that car.  But really, when you think of it, isn't that a bit like placing the blame on myself and not where it belongs?  After all, he was my date, and I trusted him.  Our dates are not only supposed to show  us a good time, but aren't they supposed to protect us as well?

I remember him driving off onto an old dirt road.  I pulled him up on it, and he said it was a shortcut to his friend's house.  I remember it seemed to go on forever before he pulled to a stop.  My date and his buddies got out of the car.  He asked if I wanted to stretch my legs, but by now I was getting a wee bit nervous.  My intuition was telling me that something was up.  I remember telling him that I wanted to go home.  He laughed.  Then, I remember him reaching in and pulling me out of the car.  By now I was screaming.  I knew what was about to happen, and miraculously, I blacked out before the worst of it occurred.

The next thing I remember it was early morning, and as the sun began  to rise, I found myself on a country road--bloodied, bruised, broken.  A man came out of one of the houses to walk his dog and immediately called for his wife to call the police.  They were wonderful to me.  The wife took me upstairs to the bathroom and to freshen my face, and when I looked into the mirror, I didn't know who it was looking back at me.  My hair was in disarray with grass and dirt all tangled in it, eyes red and puffy, lines of mascara running down my cheeks. My lip was swollen and inside my mouth was a small cut.  I must have put up a fight.

My experience at the police station was awful.  The officers actually seemed more concerned about how much I had to drink than what happened to me.  They knew I had been raped, but, back in those days, being raped was a personal shame for the victim.  Had I given names and chosen to go to court, my reputation would have been shattered by the defense attorney.  In that era, the rape was always the 'victim's' fault.  They either dressed provocatively or, in my case, went to a bar to have a few drinks and got in the car with three men.  Never mind, that one of them was my date for the night.

Mom was no better. She really put the screws in as she drove me to the hospital.   It was all my fault. Nice girls don't go to bars.  Oh, how she hoped this stayed quiet.  People were already talking about dad, the alcoholic.  She didn't need them talking about the daughter, the slut, too. I'd best not tell a soul about this. The doctor's who superficially examined me at the hospital knew.  Their faces showed sympathy as they questioned me, and I continued to deny I had been raped.  I refused a gynecological exam, and they kept asking me if I was sure.  'They shouldn't get away with this', the kindly doctor said, but, when I glanced over at mom's stern face, I knew what I had to do. 

Needless to say, the men were never named, never brought to court and prosecuted.  They totally got away with violating my body. I've never forgot that I raped, but I have learned how to deal with the memory.  The anger and outrage is still there.  And yes, I do regret that I let them go so easily.  That is something I will never forgive myself for. The following are some of today's statistics:

Rape has been called 'the most under-reported violent crime in America'.

Only 61% of rapes are never reported to the police.

In reported rapes there is a 50.8% chance that an arrest will be made.

If an arrest is made, there is an 80% chance of prosecution.

Nearly 85% of victims knew their attacker

More than 40% of incidents involve more than one assailant

National Sexual Assault Hotline  (800) 656- HOPE(4673) 


My Story...Second Part

All right.  So here I am in New York City.  I'm surviving, but I am feeling oh, so alone. In time, I meet some guy who...as I thought of all of my boyfriends...was the one I had been searching for all of my life...and he is just like all the others.  He's a drinker and a playboy.  Needless to say, we weren't together very long.  I just had to share this one with you, though.  On Christmas, he gave me a pair of earrings, my only Christmas gift that year. I had a wee little fake tree that sat on my dresser that year, and I placed the earrings under the tree.  The next morning rose early, and after he left to go to work, I went over the the tree and lo and behold....the creep had taken the earrings with him.  He'd given me a gift and then stole it back.  Is that sick or what? It was very easy to break up with him...there really wasn't anything to begin with...but there I was...alone again.

A short time afterward I met my abusive ex-husband.  Gosh, before we married, he treated me so special.  We went all over together.  He even got me out of my wee little room by marrying me and settled me into his parents' home.  Big mistake. His parents from day one let me know that I didn't fit in.  I was an Irish girl, and we all know that Irish girls like to drink; they can't help it; it's part of their culture.  So, I wasn't good enough for their Italian son, and much as I tried, I never could sway them.  I bent over backwards...cleaned their house, cooked, tried so hard to be loving, but they were always so cold...and sometimes I could hear them talking about me.

Now that I look back on it, I wonder if I should have known back then how he was going to be...and even if I did, would it have made any difference?  I think not.  So, by now I am pregnant with my son, and we've gotten our own place.  He is a want-to-be actor and a bouncer in a bar two nights a week.  He has no steady work.  It's basically all up to me.  I'm going to school and working in catering and do so right up until two weeks before the baby is born.  He's not even there for the birth.  His bouncer job is more important.

Three weeks after I get out of the hospital, I have to go back to work.  He won't do anything else...why, he's got his acting career to think about. So, my mother-in-law gets me a job at an answering service where she used to work.  I'm working 5 days a week from 4 to 12 pm.  I drop my son off before I go to work, race over there after work, and pick him up...taking a cab home.  Meanwhile, hubby is sitting around doing nothing...and by now, the name calling has started...the dirty, filthy names he called me.  He's even pushed me around and pulled clumps of my hair out on occasion.  Why did I stay?  Because he was always sorry, and it would never happen again.  And, the one time I did pack my bags and take my son to a battered women's shelter, I found myself living amongst drug dealers, prostitutes, rats, mice, and cockroaches. I was running back and forth to the welfare office who was putting me through a round of torture just to see how badly I wanted my benefits.  My son got sick; he got very sick and wasn't getting any better.  I went back home.

Fast forward.  Seven years later.  Still being abused verbally and physically.  Difference is, now I have two sons...two children to worry about. I also have a bald spot (thankfully hidden) in back of my head and a knot in my leg from being hit by a chair which remains to this day.  I've got a halfway decent job now, but he's been telling me it's nothing, that I am nobody, that I'm lucky to have him, that nobody would ever want me, that I am ugly, stupid, worthless...that he is a star and he is who is important.  He's still nothing more than a bouncer with several extra roles and a few small parts.  And when he gets one of his parts on a Friday and has to miss his bouncer job, I have to pay him the $50 from my salary...AND LIKE A DUMMY, I DO IT. That's how beaten down I was.

Then one day, I began fighting back. When he was approaching me to attack, I picked up the phone to dial 911.  He reached out to grab the phone, and I don't know where I got the power, but I let him have it in the head with the receiver.  He backed off...holding his head and crying...his precious head..what would he do if it were scarred?  From then on, he was afraid of me, and he even told me so. The physical cruelty was over, but it was still a few years before I got out.

To be continued....


My Story Repost

I thought today I would take some time to introduce myself to some of my new readers. Every once in awhile I like to let you know that I have been there, too.  I know what it is like.  Hence, the repost of my story.  I am Woman.  I am strong.  I can do anything.  Today, that is how I feel about myself...I am a survivor...but it wasn't always that way.  There was a time when I couldn't even decide what I wanted for dinner if someone offered me the choice.

I was born in a small town in the rural area of New Jersey.  My dad was an alcoholic; my mom had her boyfriend and her own life to lead, so as a little girl, I was pretty much on my own.  My parents didn't seem to care that much until I became a teenager...only then did they decide that it was time to keep an eye on me.  And they did so in the most horrible way...by condemning me to spend my teenage years in my room.  They found fault with everything that I did, and everything was grounds for punishment...even a coat unbuttoned was grounds for a month of detention.  I never had a date, never went to either of my proms, never did any of the things that my friends had done.

And to make it worse, I was constantly belittled by my mom.  "You're no good", "You're never going to amount to anything", "You're going to be a fat old drunk like your father."  Now, keeping and eye on one's child and being there for the child are two different things.  My parents NEVER had any time for me, and I grew up believing that that was the way things were supposed to be. Relationships?  I never had one...so how was I supposed to know how to act.  After all, when my friends were going on their first dates, I was home sitting in my room.

By the time I reached my senior year in high school, it was all getting to me.  I felt so different than the other children.  I felt like I didn't belong.  I was lonely, and all I wanted was someone to care.  So, when I hit 18, I got married...married to an alcoholic...just like my dad.  Only this husband was a nasty drunk who didn't work and expected to sit around slurping beers and being taken care of.  Then, I began drinking the beer with him...and he started fighting with me over it.  In just a matter of a few months, our marriage was in shambles.  I was afraid of him.  He was becoming more and more violent. Bills were not being paid, and there was little money for food.  We were losing our home. Fortunately, it was fairly easy to leave him.  I still had my parent's home, and there were no children. So, one day I told him I had enough and moved bag and baggage back home. 

Oh, he didn't give up so easily.  He called and called and pleaded that he wouldn't drink anymore. Then, when he saw that that wasn't working he called and threatened to kill himself if I didn't come back.  I simply told him "Go ahead"; I knew he didn't mean it.  Pretty boy was too wrapped up in himself to do himself in.  So, shortly thereafter, I hopped on a plane and flew to Atlanta, Georgia for a quickie divorce.  I don't know if they still have them, but in those days, the 1960's, they were quite easy to obtain.

I was hungering for love, but what was that old song?  "I'm looking for love in all the wrong places?"  Well, that was me.  I began running with some fairly wild gals and we did a lot of bar hopping.  In New York State at that time you could drink at age 18, so many a night we would cross the border into Port Jervis...a really 'hopping' town in those days.  It was there that I met the next so-called 'love of my life'.  He was older than me...by about ten years.  We didn't marry but we settled in together.  I was the perfect wife...dinner, cleaning...my wild life was over.  I really wanted this to work...and it did...for awhile...until I discovered I was living with a sex addict.  He began staying out all night long...coming home disheveled...with love bites on his neck...And I, so desperate for it to work...would spend night after night sitting at the kitchen table waiting for him to come home...which was usually at dawn. By now, I had started drinking again and my companion was a bottle of "Boone's Farm Strawberry Hill" wine.  And I put up with this for months on end...I knew I was the laughing stock of everyone around me, but I was just so hungry for someone to love me....and my self-esteem had always been so low.  My mom had seen to that.  

Then one day, he came home and gave me a case of the 'crabs'.  That was all I could take?  Do you know how I felt having to go into a pharmacy and ask for the shampoo?  It was probably the most embarrassing time of my life. I put him out.  He cried and he begged for another chance, but how could I? After what he had done?  Although he had never physically abused me, what he had done still was still considered abuse, a form of emotional abuse.  I went to the doctor, had myself checked out for everything.  Fortunately, I was fine.  It was shortly after that that I made my move to New York...and, oh, what a wake-up call.

To be continued....


Women of Today

You women of today who fear so much
The women of the future, showing how
The dangers of her course are such and such–
What are you now?

Mothers and Wives and Housekeepers, forsooth!
Great names, you cry, full scope to rule and please,
Room for wise age and energetic youth!–
But are you these?

Housekeepers? Do you then, like those of yore,
Keep house with power and pride, with grace and ease?
No, you keep servants only! What is more–
You don't keep these!

Wives, say you? Wives! Blessed indeed are they
Who hold of love the everlasting keys,
Keeping your husbands' hearts! Alas the day!
You don't keep these!

And mothers? Pitying Heaven! Mark the cry
From cradle death-beds! Mothers on their knees!
Why, half the children born, as children, die!
You don't keep these!

And still the wailing babies come and go,
And homes are waste, and husband's hearts fly far;
There is no hope until you dare to know
The thing you are! 



Weekly Quote

The young women of today, free to study, to speak, to write, to choose their occupation, should remember that every inch of this freedom was bought for them at a great price. It is for them to show their gratitude by helping onward the reforms of their own times, by spreading the light of freedom and of truth still wider. The debt that each generation owes to the past it must pay to the future.

Abigail Duniway


Today's Quote

"We ask justice, we ask equality, we ask that all the civil and political rights that belong to citizens of the United States, be guaranteed to us and our daughters forever." 

Susan B. Anthony, Declaration of Rights for Women, July 1876