Carolyn A. Cook -- United 4 Equality, LLC
Washington, DC United States
Carolyn A. Cook
Contact Phone: 202-309-1963
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When our country was founded in 1776, women were considered the property of white men.
Property meant women were legally inferior to men. She could not vote. Her education and occupations were limited. If she worked, her wages belonged to her husband to spend as he wished. She did not own possessions nor the land upon which she lived. She could not attend college, lead meetings or speak out in public. Marital rape and domestic violence were legal. She could never divorce her husband even if he was abusive, a drunkard or became penniless. If he divorced her, she was left with the clothes on her back and became homeless. Though a women's place was in the home tending to children and domestic affairs, her husband automatically got custody of her children. She was not legally recognized as a citizen of society.
In 1776, while 56, white, wealthy, land-owning males were preparing to declare their independence from the King, Abigail Adams urged her husband, John, to equate the legal status of women alongside of men in the New World. He refused to oblige her request and she replied,
"I cannot say that I think you are very generous to the ladies; for, whilst you are proclaiming peace and good-will to men, emancipating all nations, you insist upon retaining an absolute power over wives.
But you must remember that arbitrary power is like most other things which are very hard, very liable to be broken; and, notwithstanding all your wise laws and maxims, we have it in our power, not only to free ourselves, but to subdue our masters, and without violence, throw both your natural and legal authority at our feet"
The US Constitution by granting full citizenship to white males only, subjected all other human beings to a perpetual struggle for parity. Fortunately, the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments ended slavery and extended citizenship and suffrage to all males regardless of race, but again refused to acknowledge women as citizens. Justice Antonin Scalia stated in the California Lawyer in January 2011, "Certainly the Constitution doesn't require sex discrimination. The only question is whether it prohibits it. It doesn't"
Today, after 222 years, institutions (education, business, government and military); public policies; laws and programs established without women's participation and consent, continue to limit their freedom as human beings. The only right that cannot be restricted on account of being female is the right to vote under the 19th Amendment. Women's suffrage was not won without the sacrifice and struggle of many who overcame torture, ridicule and public opinion to change the course of history. And neither will equality be won without unity and effort.
Bound by custom and precedent, the US government will not guarantee that women become equal citizens of our democracy except by constitutional amendment or convention. Therefore, society must recognize that equality and progress for All will remain piecemeal and precarious without a permanent guarantee in writing to include women under the US Constitution. The Equal Rights Amendment is essential for establishing a new benchmark for lawmakers and the courts to uphold while providing the social remedy for transforming collective consciousness towards shared prosperity for All.