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)