Happy Women’s Equality Day

via National Women’s History Project  who reminds how recently women received the right to vote in the U.S.  Don’t take it for granted!

Presidential Proclamation – Women’s Equality Day, 2012

BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
A PROCLAMATION

On Women’s Equality Day, we mark the anniversary of our Constitution’s 19th Amendment, which secured the right to vote for America’s women. The product of profound struggle and fierce hope, the 19th Amendment reaffirmed what we have always known: that America is a place where anything is possible and where each of us is entitled to the full pursuit of our own happiness. We also know that the defiant, can-do spirit that moved millions to seek suffrage is what runs through the veins of American history. It remains the wellspring of all our progress. And nearly a century after the battle for women’s franchise was won, a new generation of young women stands ready to carry that spirit forward and bring us closer to a world where there are no limits on how big our children can dream or how high they can reach.

To keep our Nation moving ahead, all Americans — men and women — must be able to help provide for their families and contribute fully to our economy. That is why I have made supporting the needs and aspirations of women and girls a top priority for my Administration. From signing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act into law and creating the White House Council on Women and Girls to combatting sexual assault and promoting women’s economic and political empowerment at home and abroad, we have worked to ensure women have the opportunities they need and deserve at every stage of their lives. As women around the world continue to fight for their seat at the table, my Administration will keep their interests at the core of our policy decisions — and we will join them every step of the way.

Today, women are nearly 50 percent of our workforce, the majority of students in our colleges and graduate schools, and a growing number of breadwinners in their families. From business to medicine to our military, women are leading the fields that were closed off to them only decades ago. We owe that legacy of progress to our mothers and aunts, grandmothers and great-grandmothers — women who proved not only that opportunity and equality do not come without a fight, but also that they are possible. Even with the gains we have made, we still have work to do. As we mark this 92nd anniversary of the 19th Amendment, let us reflect on how far we have come toward fully realizing the basic freedoms enshrined in our founding documents, rededicate ourselves to closing the gaps that remain, and continue to widen the doors of opportunity for all of our daughters and sons.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim August 26, 2012, as Women’s Equality Day. I call upon the people of the United States to celebrate the achievements of women and recommit to realizing gender equality in this country.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-fourth day of August, in the year of our Lord two thousand twelve, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-seventh.BARACK OBAMA

 

Signal Boost: Our Bodies, Our Votes Campaign

From Judy Norsigian:

Our Bodies Ourselves has just launched : OUR BODIES, OUR VOTES.

The goal of this campaign is to retain and restore women’s access to reproductive health care and rights, now under attack in almost every state across the country.

Please read our press release, which quotes both Dr. Marcia Angell, former editor-in-chief of The New England Journal of Medicine, and Dr. Timothy RB Johnson. Both are medical leaders who are deeply troubled by recent trends to undermine the provision of evidence-based reproductive health care and the doctor/patient relationship.

The Our Bodies, Our Votes campaign includes: 

* Our Bodies, Our Votes bumper stickers. Order stickers here with a donation to OBOS:  — only $10 for 3 stickers!

* OurBodiesOurVotes.com, with information on contraception and abortion, plus news and activist resources and free virtual stickers you can add to your blog or social media.

* OurBodiesOurVotes.Tumblr.com, where everyone can post and view photos of Our Bodies, Our Votes stickers appearing across the country.

I hope you will join us in spreading the word by forwarding this email to friends and colleagues who care about women’s access to reproductive health care, and by sharing the links with your networks. If you’re on Twitter, here’s the campaign hashtag: #obov2012

Finally, please make a donation to support our ongoing work to preserve access to reproductive health care.

Thanks, as always, for your support and for your own efforts to improve reproductive health care for all.

 

Best wishes,
Judy

P.S. To stay up to date with OBOS news, sign up here (with options about how often you will be contacted):

P.P.S.  As some of you may know already, the Library of Congress included “Our Bodies, Ourselves” in its new exhibition of Books That Shaped America, and Time magazine named the book one of the 100 best and most influential nonfiction English books written since 1923.  The 2011 edition has received critical acclaim and was selected by Library Journal as one of the eight best consumer health books of the year.

If you want to earmark a generous donation towards a new initiative to get this book into the hands of 10,000 young college-age students, please contact me directly. Thanks so much for your interest and support!

Judy Norsigian, Executive Director

Our Bodies Ourselves

5 Upland Rd, Suite 3

Cambridge, MA 02140

tel: 617-245-0200 x11  fax: 617-245-0201

Email:  judy@bwhbc.org

Website: www.ourbodiesourselves.org

Blog: www.ourbodiesourblog.org

Happy Belated 40th Birthday to #TitleIX

Last Saturday was the 40th anniversary of Title IX. To celebrate the National Women’s Law Center had a blog carnival of stories about how Title IX has helped shape women’s and girls’ experiences in the classroom and in athletics.  So, here’s my story, a little late.

I came of age just as Title IX was coming into effect. My first recollection of something having to do with this from 7th or 8th grade, when there was an announcement that girls could try out for Little League.  Of course I had no idea at that time what Title IX was and since my baseball skills were poor to non-existent, I had no interest in trying out for the team. I was active in other sports and was best at ones that didn’t involve balls or sticks — i.e. swimming (in summer) and cross-country and track during the school year.  I wasn’t the best athlete but did show enough determination to be receive “most improved track athlete” my senior year.  Athletics definitely helped make me more confident as a high school student and also helped me deal with the stress of adolescence.  I also developed a life-long interest in fitness and a healthy lifestyle.  Now I mostly bike, run, or swim for fun, although I do attempt the occasional triathlon.  I’m also a women’s history professor, so I get to teach students about the importance of Title IX not just for athletics but for educational equality as a whole.  We still have  a ways to go but look how far we’ve come. Thanks Title IX for helping improve the minds and bodies of girls and women in the U.S.

My historical detective work on #Emergency Contraception coverage in New York Times

Over the past two weeks there has been a robust discussion on the International Consortium for Emergency Contraception listserv about reporting in the New York Times discussing recent findings on how emergency contraception works.  According to this article, “an examination by The New York Times has found that the federally approved labels and medical Web sites do not reflect what the science shows. Studies have not established that emergency contraceptive pills prevent fertilized eggs from implanting in the womb, leading scientists say. Rather, the pills delay ovulation, the release of eggs from ovaries that occurs before eggs are fertilized, and some pills also thicken cervical mucus so sperm have trouble swimming.

It turns out that the politically charged debate over morning-after pills and abortion, a divisive issue in this election year, is probably rooted in outdated or incorrect scientific guesses about how the pills work. Because they block creation of fertilized eggs, they would not meet abortion opponents’ definition of abortion-inducing drugs. In contrast, RU-486, a medication prescribed for terminating pregnancies, destroys implanted embryos.

The notion that morning-after pills prevent eggs from implanting stems from the Food and Drug Administration’s decision during the drug-approval process to mention that possibility on the label — despite lack of scientific proof, scientists say, and objections by the manufacturer of Plan B, the pill on the market the longest.”

I’ll let scientists comment on the emerging scientific consensus on this and comment on what this says about historical research. While researching my book, I’ve spent countless hours reading and re-reading FDA transcripts and I have no recollection of any such objections from the manufacturer of Plan B, which at that time was Women’s Capital Corporation.  Shortly after this article appeared,  Newsweek Senior Editor Sarah Blustain contacted me to find out more about the FDA’s decision. She asked whether this was a political compromise imposed on the manufacturers of Plan B by FDA.  I told her that I didn’t recall any of this so went back and looked at the transcripts available on the FDA website.  I couldn’t find anything in the original New Drug Application for Plan B filed by Women’s Capital Corporation.  After some further digging, I found the relevant discussion in a transcript from a joint meeting of the FDA Non-prescription Drug Advisory Committee (NDAC) and the Advisory Committee for Reproductive Health Drugs (ACRHD) held on December 16, 2003. However, I didn’t find any objections from scientists who presented on behalf of the manufacturer of Plan B.  The relevant section starts on page 288 of the PDF version.  First, Dr. Joseph Stanford, a member of the ACHRD asks:

“I understand, again, that the data that we have on mechanism of action for Plan B is imperfect, incomplete, but I think it’s a
critical issue for those women who want to understand how it works and have informed consent for use. So along those lines I have a question from Appendix 6 from the sponsor’s book. They list all of the answers to Question 7 about — after they
showed the women the package, they said, “Without looking at the label, tell me what Plan B is used for,” and then classified answers as either correct and acceptable or correct but not acceptable or not correct and not acceptable, and they list them
verbatim. And among the ones that are listed as correct and acceptable are a number of women who said that — one of them is, for example, an abortion type  thing for the day after. One was them was to kill a fertilized egg, and basically showing that some women had that understanding, and it was classified by the company as a correct and acceptable understanding of
what the product is for. And so I’m just wondering for the FDA did they also classify those particular answers as correct
and acceptable for what the product is for.”

NDAC chairman Louis Cantilena  then called Karen Lechter from FDA Dr. Leonard Segal answered, “Dr. Lechter unfortunately had to leave, and I don’t know that I can actually specifically address how she did hercalculation in her review on that particular issue. My assumption is though that she probably followed the sponsor’s categorization.” Chairman Cantilena answers, “There were a few tables that she showed in her presentation where she had asterisks where there was, you know, a difference between her, you know, assessment and the sponsors. But I don’t recall if that specific issue was asterisked or not.”

Dr. Valerie Montgomery Rice from ACRHD says, “I think that one of the things that Dr. Stanford is getting to — and you can tell me if I’m wrong — is a matter of informed consent such that the patient is as fully informed as possible based on all of the information that we know about how this product works.

So I guess I would ask the sponsor first.  When you’ve done surveys, if you have — and you may not have this information — in women who have taken emergency contraception and then you’ve asked them the question of how they  perceive, first of all, the medication worked, besides one of these studies because during that time, I think when you are dealing with that immediate issue of needing emergency contraception or even within the first couple of weeks while you’re waiting for that cycle to come, your perception of how it works may be different than when you sit down and really think about it.  So I think that’s one point.

And then, you know, even with my background, having a lot of experience with infertility and giving a lot progesterone, et cetera, and I’ve reviewed the literature, there is some data out there that really does suggest at very high dosages that there may be the possibility that you’re interfering with the implantation.

And so I guess my comfort level would definitely — I would definitely be a lot more comfortable making sure that the patient or the woman who makes that decision is as informed as possible that there potentially is a possibility that still gives that woman enough information to make an informed decision and not dilute any of her rights in deciding to proceed with this medication.”

Dr. Carole Ben-Maimon, one of the physicians presenting on behalf of Women’s Capital Corporation, answered:

“We are very sensitive to the fact that there are differing views not only of how this could potentially work, but also when pregnancy begins.  And so there are actually statements in the labeling with regard to the implantation issue in order to provide women information so that they understand and that they know that this could potentially prevent implantation.

Again, we believe the data is overwhelming.  We believe the medical definition, which is that pregnancy starts at implantation, is a critical point to keep in mind, but we are sensitive to the issues that others — the opinions of others.”

In other words, not only was there no objection from those representing Women’s Capital Corporation, they actually provided the information about possible effects on implantation that went into the label for Plan B. Now, this doesn’t meant that there weren’t objections from someone either from WCC or elsewhere — but I can’t find this in the official record.

So what’s the point here?  Well, what bugs me about the New York Times coverage is that it grossly oversimplifies the FDA approval process and assumes that anyone who worked for FDA or served on its advisory committees were only there to enforce the political will of the Bush administration.  In fact, the committee members mentioned above are respected members of the reproductive health community who were asking important, nuanced scientific and ethical questions that had nothing to do with the culture wars over reproductive rights.  (Dr. Montgomery Rice, for example, is Dean of Morehouse School of Medicine who has worked extensively on health issues affecting women of color — and we historians of women’s health all know how poorly women of color were and sometimes still are treated by medical researchers — e.g. the field trials for the original contraceptive pills in Puerto Rico and Haiti).  So, naturally informed consent would be a critical concern for her.

I would be interested to find out whom the NYT reporter interviewed for this story. I don’t think anyone is purposely trying to rewrite history but they may have selective memories.


Blog for International Women’s Day 2012: the Girl Scouts have always had a feminist agenda

via Gender Across Borders.  The theme for 2012 is“Connecting Girls, Inspiring Futures” and Gender Across Borders asks us to address one or both of the following points:

  • How can we, as a culture and as members of the global community, involve, educate, and inspire girls in a positive way?
  • Describe a particular organization, person, group or moment in history that helped to inspire a positive future and impact the minds and aspirations for girls.

Since it’s the 100th anniversary of Girls Scouts of America, I’ve decided to use this organization as the focus of my post.

By now most of you have heard of the  accusations by Rep. Bob Morris (R-Indiana) and other conservatives that the Girl Scouts have a “radical feminist lesbian agenda” (and if you haven’t, here’s an article that summarizes the issue, and Stephen Colbert’s hilarious commentary)

Those of us who remember our days in the Girl Scouts are naturally puzzled by this statement — seriously, what’s radical about selling cookies or singing songs by the campfire?

However, it is true that since it’s beginnings the Girl Scouts of America in 1912, the organization has promoted a feminist ideology for girls, although the term “feminism” needs to be placed in historical context. According to Rebekah Revzin, Juliette Gordon Low founded the Girl Scouts of America during a time of significant change in women’s social and political roles. Low’s life was a microcosm of the southern women’s movement: raised to be a good southern belle, her disastrous marriage impressed upon Low the necessity of training girls and women to be self-sufficient.  Furthermore, Low’s disability (she was deaf in one ear) ensured that the Girls Scouts were ahead of their time for promoting inclusion for girls with disabilities.  The organization welcomed girls from various racial, ethnic, and religious backgrounds as well.  Revzin observes that while a significant portion of Girl Scout literature focused on traditional notions of femininity, the literature also contained “a significant amount of material that challenges the more conventional feminine doctrine espoused at the time.” The most persistent theme that runs throughout Girl Scout literature is the notion of self-sufficiency: “Because traditional view of women, particularly in the South, implied that dependent or weak women were more desirable, the Girl Scout emphasis on female self-sufficiency appear particularly progressive” Revzin argues.  Providing for oneself included “cultivation of the body through physical activities that further empowered girls by giving them a sense of strong physical ability.” This support for physical fitness, says Revzin, “attributes a ‘natural’ desire for outdoor exercise to young girls, an innovative idea for its time.”  In order to ensure that girls would be economically as well as physically self-sufficient, the Girls Scouts “advocated professional careers for women.” The Career section of the handbook advised girls to pursue occupations that traditionally been reserved for men — physician, stock broker, managers, accountants, architects, even fire chief!  Revzin concludes that the Girl Scouts was more than a social club for girls: the leaders and participants aspired to go beyond “true womanhood.” Many of the “new women” of the early twentieth century “began their path toward social activity and political participation under the guiding influence of the Girl Scouts of America. These young women desired a forum in which they could express their independence, take part in outdoor activities, and provide help to others.”  Although the GSUSA never explicitly endorsed feminism, the organization “did advance women’s place in the public arena and their right to lead strong independent lives.”

Today, the Girl Scouts continues to empower girls — see its latest campaign, To Get Her There. In honor of its 100th birthday, Girl Scouts is also “setting out to raise $1 billion to achieve, in five years, a generational leap in opportunities for girls. This initiative will ensure that every girl in this generation will have the opportunity and the tools and the access she needs to reach her fullest potential. That is our promise. Together, we can make 2012 the Year of the Girl.”

Yet another reason to buy some cookies. . .

Silent Sentinels Past and Present

via Maddow Blog.  Here are photos of demonstrators outside the Virginia state capitol earlier this week. They are protesting a bill that would require women seeking an abortion to first undergo a medically unnecessary transvaginal ultrasound.

According to their Facebook page:

The Capitol ground rules say that we cannot assemble, hold signs, chant, yell or protest. We think silence in the face of this struggle and their unconstitutional rules presents the strongest response to their assault on women. Please come out and stand up for our rights and for the rights of all women in VA to choose the best reproductive route for themselves. These people are used to signs, yelling, chanting etc. It is not new. They are not used to silently being stared at and having to look us in the eye. It gives us the power.

I’m about to do my annual screening of the HBO film “Iron-Jawed Angels” that describes the actions of the “silent sentinels” by the radical women’s suffrage organization the National Women’s Party:

 

Help Save Rutgers-Camden

Dear Readers,

This post is by my friend Janet Golden at Rutgers University Camden.  Please help save her campus and sign the petition.

———————

My life as a historian scholar-teacher came to an abrupt end last week when New Jersey Governor Chris Christie announced that he was going to amputate my university Rutgers Camden and hand it over to Rowan a comprehensive university 20 miles away.  At that moment I became the historian-activist-scholar-teacher and began working 14-hour days to save my University alongside my wonderful colleagues and students, our staff, our proud alums and the many residents of Camden, one of America’s poorest cities, that we serve and assist in so many ways.  My union Rutgers AAUP-AFT has stood up for us, and people from around the world have signed our petition

http://www.change.org/petitions/governor-of-new-jersey-stop-the-rutgers-camden-to-rowan-merger

and I hope you will and will pass it along.

My colleagues have written editorials, given interviews, called the Governor and all our legislators and legislative leaders.  Our students have spoken up, organized, and as I write are preparing to go to Trenton to witness the hearings on the issue that begin on Monday.

Severing Rutgers Camden from Rutgers will weaken the Rutgers University system, it will cost the taxpayers millions and it will deprive the residents of Southern New Jersey the opportunity to get an education from a top quality university that carries a name is known around the world.  More information can be found on our website

http://www.r2rmerge.com/

Please help us by signing the petition and sharing it with everyone you know

http://www.change.org/petitions/governor-of-new-jersey-stop-the-rutgers-camden-to-rowan-merger

If you live in NJ please contact elected officials using the following information

http://www.r2rmerge.com/contact.html

And, if you are a blogger and fellow scholar, please post this blog so others will know about what we are facing and how they can help.

Janet Golden, Ph.D.

Professor of History

Activist