Women’s Equality Day August 26th

Victoria Woodhull speaks before the House Judiciary Committee

#VictoriaWoodhull #womanforpresident

Victoria Woodhull - 1st woman to run for US President! At the start of the U.S. feminist movement 165 years ago, in Seneca Falls, N.Y., the“Declaration of Sentiments” was drafted with many demands.  Yet the movement coalesced around one goal: securing the right to vote.
Women’s Equality Day this Monday, Aug. 26, commemorates the achievement of that goal — after a 75-year battle — with the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920, granting political enfranchisement to women.
Fifty years ago a second wave of the women’s movement was ignited by Betty Friedan’s book, The Feminine Mystique, which soon galvanized support behind another demand: legalized abortion.  In assessing the impacts of these two legislative mandates in the fight for equal rights, some important distinctions bear noting.

Get the PBS featured documentary on the life of Victoria Woodhull  Features feminist icon Gloria Steinem, historians.

If you spliced the genes of Hillary Clinton, Madonna, Heidi Fleiss and Margaret Thatcher, you might have someone like Victoria Woodhull. – –Atlanta Journal & Constitution

Today, abortion is usually considered the cornerstone of women’s rights.  Parallels are drawn between the anti-suffragists and those today who want to deny women their “reproductive freedom” and keep them shackled to babies and the kitchen sink.
Thus, few today are aware that the founders of American feminism were staunchly and unanimously opposed to abortion. In Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s radical feminist newspaper The Revolution, abortion was condemned as “child murder,” a “most degrading and disgusting crime,” “ante-natal murder” and “infanticide.”
Why would the original champions of women’s equality oppose such a fundamental “right”?  The reason was the same as for the abolitionists:  Every individual, regardless of race or gender, is entitled to basic human rights and dignity, and those rights cannot be given or taken away by others. Stanton wrote in 1873, “When we consider that women are treated as property, it is degrading for women to treat their children as property, to be disposed of as they see fit.”
Early feminists’ pro-life views went well beyond the anti-abortion rhetoric of their day.  To eliminate the “evil” of abortion, they argued we must reach the root cause:  society’s oppression of women.
Victoria Woodhull, free-love advocate and first woman presidential candidate, wrote in 1875, “Every woman knows that if she were free, she would never bear an unwished-for child, nor think of murdering one before its birth.”  Abortion was recognized as a symptom of, not a solution to, women’s oppression.  They anticipated its elimination, not its wholesale acceptance.
In the 1960s, legitimate social problems were still preventing women from reaching their fullest potential: an unfair burden of child care when men had many opportunities outside the home, pay inequity, job discrimination, sexual harassment, domestic violence and a lack of legal and financial rights.
The right to vote was considered the “red herring of the revolution,” because it did not alleviate these problems.  Women just voted like their husbands with low poll turnout, and we still have far to go to reach parity in representation.  The drive for legal abortion came in response to this lag.
While suffrage didn’t achieve all the goals its proponents expected, it didn’t detract from them either.  Conversely, abortion directly contradicts the very values that drove the feminist fight for equality.  The emphasis on abortion has actually hindered progress toward real reform.
Instead of liberating women, abortion liberated men.  Obligations to their partners and children are optional, with child abuse and the feminization of poverty escalating with the availability of abortion, and more of the child care burden has shifted to women.  Abortion, instead of social change that would facilitate combining children and career, has relieved society of its obligation to accommodate the real needs of women.
Pro-choice women have abandoned core feminist values and adopted the worst patriarchal standards: seeking power through control and domination, condoning violence on the grounds of personal privacy, and using killing to resolve conflict.  By insisting on abortion as necessary for equality, we assume the traditional male world view: equating personhood to manhood, denying women’s reproductive capacities.  Women must become essentially wombless and unpregnant like males, and resort to violence to do so.
Let us re-evaluate the causes around which we rally in order to achieve a more inclusive society.  As we honor our brave foremothers, let us heed their wisdom.  As abortion has not brought us closer to our goal, let us instead support causes that reflect true feminist ideals of justice and nonviolence.  These will bring women the respect they deserve.
Marilyn Kopp, a member of Feminists for Life, lives in Cleveland.