Women’s History Month ends today, and I’m guessing most people missed it. About the only thing noted by the media was the passing of one of our political pioneers, Geraldine Ferraro.
She broke ground by going from teacher to prosecuting attorney to congresswoman, a small but growing trend in the 1970s. At that time the House and Senate lacked facilities for women, such as bathrooms near the chamber floors. She earned space in the history books by being the first woman selected by a major party to run for vice president. In 1984 and for many more years, that was remarkable.
She and Walter Mondale lost, but her knowledge of issues, wit, and poise proved women could play with the men. Many women entered politics because Gerry Ferraro showed success was possible. This must be hard to comprehend for young women and girls who watched Hillary Clinton almost capture the presidential nomination and Sarah Palin run for vice president in 2008. But we still haven’t had a woman elected president or vice president.
Until well past the middle of the 20th century, girls almost always ran for class secretary rather than class president and women almost always worked for a candidate rather than being the candidate. Women still have not reached parity in politics or in pay.
Right now women’s most dramatic march toward equality is taking place in the Middle East. Recently we’ve witnessed women participating in protests for freedom in Tunisia, Egypt, and Iran. These women risk their lives to improve their personal status and to create a more equal society.
We’ve made greater progress in this country, but the fight for equality lasts for generations. American women fought for decades to gain the rights to own property and to vote. Progress requires persistence.