Copyright © 1999 Henrietta W. Hay
The Fight Goes On . . .
March 20, 1999
By the time Natalia Toro, Becky Hammon and Jane Doe are my age I would
like to think there be no need for "Women's History Month." I'm
dreaming, aren't I?
Natalia just finished first in the nation's oldest and most prestigious
high school science competition, the Intel Science Talent Search. She
is a senior at Fairview High School in Boulder, is 14 years old, and
received a $50,000 college scholarship. Her prize winning work was a
study of the oscillations of neutrinos. She can look forward to a
future where the sky is the limit.
Becky's talents are different. She is the All-American who led the
Colorado State University women's basketball team from relative
obscurity to No. 2 seed in the NCAA women's basketball championship
tournament. If she chooses that route, pro basketball is now a sure
thing for this fine athlete.
Then there is Jane Doe, whose grades are average and who is not
athletic. But now -- thanks to that dirty "F" word, feminism -- she can
look forward to choosing how she wants to live her life.
Today's girls have choices their mothers and grandmothers only dreamed
of. But they are going to have to work and fight for them.
"I urge the young women especially to prepare themselves to take up the
work so soon to fall from our hands. You have had opportunities for
education such as we had not. You hold today the changed ground we have
won by argument. Show now your gratitude to us by making the uttermost
of yourselves and by your earnest, exalted lives secure to those who
come after you a higher outlook...a larger freedom." I did not write
those words yesterday. They were uttered over a hundred years ago by
Elizabeth Cady Stanton, chief author of the Seneca Falls Declaration.
A hundred years -- and here we are today still saying the same words
to our daughters and granddaughters. We should be celebrating, but
we're still fighting the same old battles.
We are getting the vicious backlash that is part of all social movements
and it is coming from women like the Kathleen Parkers who still believe
that the only important thing to remember about those of us who were
pioneers in the second wave of the women's movement was that we burned
our bras (actually we didn't). In the last year of the millennium she
is still writing about "gender feminists" and "equity feminists,"
another way of saying, "I don't care what happens to other women, but I
want mine." I thought we got past that twenty years ago. Parker has
not yet figured out that equal pay for equal work is a major part of the
whole issue - along with political and social equality and the right to
make choices about our lives. This includes the choice as to whether to
be full time, part time or no time housewives.
Molly Ivins, who has been involved in the cause since the beginning,
summarized who we are not. "We are not anti-male, anti-sex,
anti-marriage, or anti-motherhood. My late mother, a Republican, at the
age of 84 had a bumper sticker on her car that said, 'Pro-child,
pro-choice and pro-family.' And she was." I knew I had something more
than politics in common with Molly: a Republican mother.
The future is wide open for young women today. My granddaughter Pamela
is already an opera singer. Katie is dreaming of being an architect.
Michelle wants only to be a mother. Erin wants to combine a growing
career with marriage. Even at my age I have a dream of a women
president, a dream which would have been in X-Files when I was young.
We stuck our necks out thirty years ago. But we are getting older and
tireder. You young women have to remember that equality is not easy to
achieve and you can never take it for granted. You have youth and
enthusiasm. I envy you and I wish you well. I do wonder what Natalia
and Becky will be doing when they are 85.
As our generation passes the fight along to you, you might think of
Mother Jones' advice, "Pray for the dead, but fight like Hell for the