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

Review of Leslie Reagan, Dangerous Pregnancies: Mothers, Disabilities, and Abortion in Modern America

via H-Disability

Leslie J. Reagan. Dangerous Pregnancies: Mothers, Disabilities, and Abortion in Modern America. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2010. xv + 372 pp. $27.50 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-520-25903-4.

Reviewed by Heather Munro Prescott (Central Connecticut State University)
Published on H-Disability (March, 2012)
Commissioned by Iain C. Hutchison

Prescott on Reagan

This book continues the compelling story of the history of abortion in the United States that Reagan began in her award-winning book, When Abortion Was a Crime (1998). The title Dangerous Pregnancies refers not to pregnancies that were dangerous to the lives or health of mothers, but to the “dangers” to home, family, and society posed by the birth of “defective” babies. Focusing on the responses to the German measles epidemic in the United States during the early 1960s, Reagan shows how fears of disability helped lend legitimacy to the abortion rights movement.

Reagan goes beyond her earlier work by linking the history of reproductive rights to two other fields of scholarship: the history of epidemics and infectious disease; and the history of representations of people with disabilities. She shows that in marked contrast to earlier epidemics, the German measles outbreak did not single out nonwhite or other stigmatized groups as sources of infection. Nevertheless, race was at the center of media representations of the disease. Responses to the epidemic highlighted how the birth of a disabled child wrecked havoc on the status of white, middle-class, heterosexual, nuclear families. The epidemic came closely after alarming reports about severe birth defects in infants born to women who had taken the sleeping pill thalidomide while pregnant. Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had not approved the drug, some American women were able to obtain the drug from overseas. The story of Sherri Finkbine’s efforts to obtain an abortion after she discovered she had taken thalidomide while pregnant with her fifth child, helped transform attitudes towards abortion in the United States. During the pronatalist 1940s and 1950s, media coverage emphasized the deviant nature of abortion and of the women who sought these procedures. Finkbine’s story, along with that of other white, middle-class mothers who had contracted German measles while pregnant, transformed the image of abortion “from a shameful, thoughtless, and sick action to an ethical and responsible one” that protected families from the “burden” of raising a severely disabled child (p. 104).

Despite these changing attitudes towards abortion, significant barriers remained even for those who sought to terminate “dangerous pregnancies.” Reagan contrasts the cases of Barbara Stewart and Sandra Gleitman, who with their husbands filed “wrongful birth” cases against the hospitals that refused to provide abortions after the women had been exposed to German measles while pregnant. Both cases showed that hospital abortion committees were fickle and arbitrary. For the Stewarts, an African American couple, race posed an additional hurdle. While they had private health insurance, racial discrimination denied them access to physicians who had connections to hospital abortion review committees. By demonstrating the central role that race played in these deliberations, Reagan answers Chris Bell’s suggestion that disability studies scholars need to pay more attention to the experiences of “people of color.”

Reagan is less successful in showing how the German measles epidemic contributed to the emerging disability rights movement. She describes the work of “rubella parents”–most of whom were white and middle class–who fought for and won the right to public education for children with physical, sensory, and intellectual impairments. These parents were successful largely because rubella and its effects were not confined to the poor or to “people of color,” and because their arguments focused on the core middle-class value of access to education. Reagan also periodically mentions persons with congenital rubella syndrome and other disabilities, including those who objected to the “humane” and “merciful” reforms that made it easier for women to abort fetuses with birth defects. Reagan claims that even the suits filed by the Stewarts and Gleitmans reflected an aspect of this rights movement, since their aim was to get resources for their children. Yet Reagan underestimates the countervailing power of terms like “therapeutic abortion” and “wrongful birth” to reinforce prevailing beliefs that disability is a fate worse than death. Rubella immunization campaigns weakened the disability rights perspective even further. They used sentimental images of “pathetic” rubella children and played into popular notions of disability as a “tragedy” that could be prevented through universal vaccination against German measles.

Reagan shows how the rhetoric about “dangerous pregnancies” backfired during the 1980s and 1990s. Opponents of vaccination have seized on these same fears by alleging that vaccines cause autism, and that by refusing to vaccinate their children, they are saving themselves from the “heartbreak” of raising a disabled child. The discovery of fetal alcohol syndrome and other defects caused by environmental factors “erased” the history of women fighting for accurate information about potential threats to their babies and the right to abort “defective babies.” Public health campaigns by the March of Dimes and other organizations recast pregnant women themselves as risks to the unborn. Reagan rightly concludes that German measles acted as a “crucible for change” by prompting dialogue about reproductive rights, civil rights, and disability rights, but this change was incomplete. Abortion rights are increasingly under assault, and stigmatizing language about disability and misconceptions about persons with disabilities remain with us today.

If there is additional discussion of this review, you may access it through the list discussion logs at: http://h-net.msu.edu/cgi-bin/logbrowse.pl.

Citation: Heather Munro Prescott. Review of Reagan, Leslie J., Dangerous Pregnancies: Mothers, Disabilities, and Abortion in Modern America. H-Disability, H-Net Reviews. March, 2012.
URL: http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=33916

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

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. . .

Presidential Proclamation for National Women’s History Month 2012

via National Women’s History Project:

 

WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH, 2012

– – – – – – –

BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

A PROCLAMATION

As Americans, ours is a legacy of bold independence and passionate belief in fairness and justice for all. For generations, this intrepid spirit has driven women pioneers to challenge injustices and shatter ceilings in pursuit of full and enduring equality. During Women’s History Month, we commemorate their struggles, celebrate centuries of progress, and reaffirm our steadfast commitment to the rights, security, and dignity of women in America and around the world.

We see the arc of the American story in the dynamic women who shaped our present and the groundbreaking girls who will steer our future. Forty-one years ago, when former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt confronted President John F. Kennedy about the lack of women in government, he appointed her the head of a commission to address the status of women in America and the discrimination they routinely faced. Though the former First Lady passed away before the commission finished its work, its report would spur action across our country and galvanize a movement toward true gender parity. Our Nation stands stronger for that righteous struggle, and last March my Administration was proud to release the first comprehensive Federal report on the status of American women since President Kennedy’s commission in 1963. Today, women serve as leaders throughout industry, civil society, and government, and their outstanding achievements affirm to our daughters and sons that no dream is beyond their reach.

While we have made great strides toward equality, we cannot rest until our mothers, sisters, and daughters assume their rightful place as full participants in a secure, prosperous, and just society. With the leadership of the White House Council on Women and Girls, my Administration is advancing gender equality by promoting workplace flexibility, striving to bring more women into math and science professions, and fighting for equal pay for equal work. We are combating violence against women by revising an antiquated definition of rape and harnessing the latest technology to prevent dating violence, domestic violence, and sexual assault. From securing women’s health and safety to leveling the playing field and ensuring women have full and fair access to opportunity in the 21st century, we are making deep and lasting investments in the future of all Americans.

Because the peace and security of nations around the globe depend upon the education and advancement of women and girls, my Administration has placed their perspectives and needs at the heart of our foreign policy. Last December, I released the first United States National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security to help ensure women play an equal role in peace-building worldwide. By fully integrating women’s voices into peace processes and our work to prevent conflict, protect civilians, and deliver humanitarian assistance, the United States is bringing effective support to women in areas of conflict and improving the chances for lasting peace. In the months ahead, my Administration will continue to collaborate with domestic and international partners on new initiatives to bring economic and political opportunity to women at home and abroad.

During Women’s History Month, we recall that the pioneering legacy of our grandmothers and great-grandmothers is revealed not only in our museums and history books, but also in the fierce determination and limitless potential of our daughters and granddaughters. As we make headway on the crucial issues of our time, let the courageous vision championed by women of past generations inspire us to defend the dreams and opportunities of those to come.

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 March 2012 as Women’s History Month. I call upon all Americans to observe this month and to celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8, 2012, with appropriate programs, ceremonies, and activities that honor the history, accomplishments, and contributions of American women. I also invite all Americans to visit www.WomensHistoryMonth.gov to learn more about the generations of women who have shaped our history.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this first day of March, in the year of our Lord two thousand twelve, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-sixth.

BARACK OBAMA

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:

 

Blog for Choice Day 2012

via NARAL Pro-Choice America

Today is the 39th anniversary of Roe v. Wade  and the seventh annual Blog for Choice day. This year we’re being asked to give our thoughts on the following question: What will you do to help elect pro-choice candidates in 2012?

One of the main things I plan to do is to try to overcome my students’ complacency on this issue. The talk I just gave at the Dittrick Museum was very well-received and there were a lot of students in the audience (there is an active Planned Parenthood campus affiliate at Case Western). I reminded them that the ground is shifting beneath them and anti-choice groups are chipping away at reproductive rights by going after the most vulnerable groups (e.g. adolescents, the poor, i.e. folks who don’t or can’t vote). I plan to do the same with my students this semester.

I was relieved that HHS Secretary Kathleen Sibelius, along with President Obama, finally showed some back bone and required insurance companies to cover contraception without mandating co-pays, just like any other preventive service. Of course, this has angered Catholic leaders, and Fox News, among others.  They haven’t quite redeemed themselves in my book, but they certainly are better than any of the Republican candidates.

Related note — I went to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame while in Cleveland.  The Women Who Rock exhibit wound up being rather one-dimensional, i.e. lame, (does every exhibit about women have to be pink?!)  Still it was worth it to see Joan Jett’s black leather jacket with all the pro-choice and anti-rape buttons on it (where can I find one that says “Pro Fucking Choice”).  So, I guess another thing I’ll do to help pro-choice candidates get elected, I’ll ask myself whenever I see some anti-choice b.s. come my way, What Would Joan Jett do?

On the #PearlHarbor Anniversary, Remember the Women Who Served

via AAUW, which is requesting that we all  ask our members of Congress to sponsor the U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps Equity Act.  Here’s more from the AAUW website:

“During World War II, the U.S. faced a domestic nursing shortage when many American nurses went overseas to assist with the war. The members of the Cadet Nurse Corps answered our country’s call and signed up to meet the needs of hospitals nationwide and abroad. Despite their sacrifice, the 180,000 women who served in the Corps are not recognized as veterans.

Today, as we remember Pearl Harbor, let us also remember our mothers and grandmothers who saw America’s desperate need for nurses and filled it. Thousands of nurse cadets still live, and they and the families of those no longer with us deserve the honor and recognition of veteran status.

To send a message asking your member of Congress to cosponsor the United States Cadet Nurse Corps Equity Act (H.R. 1718), simply click the “Take Action” link or visit AAUW’s Two-Minute Activist page.”

Now, some of you may be wondering, why are women who served during WWII being denied veterans’ benefits?  Well, because the U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps was not linked with any of the U.S. military service branches.  Here’s more information from a digital exhibit at Rochester General Hospital:

he United States Cadet Nurse Corps was a program established by the Federal government in 1943. Its primary purpose was to ensure that the United States had enough nurses to care for the needs of its citizens on both the home and war fronts. The results of the Cadet Nurse Corps included a dramatic rise in the number of nursing students, a greater public recognition of nurses, and changes in the manner in which nurses were educated and trained.

When the United States entered World War II and defense production had begun, it became clear that there was a dramatic shortage of nurses in the country. Nursing registries were established and an inventory was conducted in 1941. While there were double the nurses available than at the time of World War I, the impending war and defense industry buildup raised many questions regarding the effect of the war effort on both the military and civilian communities. These questions became more pressing as more and more doctors and nurses joined the war effort.

A bill was introduced by Congresswoman Frances P. Bolton (R-Ohio) on March 29, 1943, calling for the establishment of a government program to provide grants to schools of nursing to facilitate the training of nurses to serve in the armed forces, government and civilian hospitals, health agencies, and in war related industries. The Bolton Act was passed unanimously by both houses of Congress and became law on July 1, 1943.

The Division of Nurse Education was established in the United States Public Health Service to supervise the Cadet Nurse Corps and was answerable to US Surgeon General Thomas Parran. Surgeon General Parran appointed Lucille Petry, RN as the head of the Corps.”

In short, nurses in the Cadet Nurse Corps served in the U.S. Public Health Service.  Therefore, unlike nurses who served in the Army or Navy, these women have been denied veterans’ benefits, although they served tours of duty in foreign theaters of war and encountered the same dangers as military nurses.  The same thing happened to Women Air Service Pilots who risked their lives flying military airplanes to war zones (38 of them died in action) but were not “official” members of the military and therefore ineligible for pensions and the G.I. Bill.  Then of course the “hidden army” of women war workers didn’t receive any compensation for their service either.

The Cadet Nurse Corps has been fighting for veterans’ benefits for decades.  The Department of Defense turned down their first request in 1979, and denied subsequent requests in the 1990s.  In an interview for the New York Timesin 2000,  Marjorie Patak complained bitterly about how the nurses’ sacrifices were ignored, excluded from history books, and even turned down for a postage stamp in 1997 after sending hundreds of letters to the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee in Washington.

”They said we didn’t have historical significance,” Mrs. Patak said. ”I was so angry. My grandson told me they even have Bugs Bunny on stamps.”

So, tell your members of Congress that these women’s service WAS significant and deserve the same benefits as men who served.  Remember the women!

On the Second Day of #Advent @myHNN gave me a mea culpa and an offer re: #Adventcalendar

Hello readers,

After my smart-assed post yesterday, David Walsh, aka @myHNN sent me the following message on Twitter in reply to me asking why no fighting women:

@hmprescott Call it a brain fart. I was thinking of Time’s 1950 person of the year, “America’s Fighting-Men,” when I came up w/ the title.

I replied:

@myHNN I’m all too familiar with brain farts, especially this time of year!

He replied:

@hmprescott Actually, I’d love a little help on this. How about a collaboration to find some women’s photos, not from Iraq/Afg–that’s done!

to which I replied:

@myHNN it’s a deal! I’ll post an update on my blog.

So, follow our joint venture at History News Network.

 

On the First Day of Advent, History News Network Gives Women’s History Bupkiss

via History News Network, where editor David Walsh has decided to “revive an old childhood tradition (suitably modified for the Internet) and bring you the HNN’s 2011 Advent Calendar, this year focusing on America’s fighting men. Every day from now until Christmas, we will feature a new image of American soldiers celebrating (or campaigning) around Christmastime. Follow our updates on Facebook or on Twitter at @myHNN. Happy holidays!”

So, as a corrective, I’m going to start my own damn Advent Hanukkah Kwanzaa Festivus Solstice [insert whatever winter holiday you like here] Calendar of America’s fighting women.  [BTW, Advent started last Sunday, November 27, so Walsh is also late out of the gate on getting that started].  Here’s my first entry:  Deborah Sampson, who “rebelled against the British and society by dressing as a man and fighting in the Revolutionary War for eighteen months under the guise of “Robert Shurtlif” of “Shirtlieff.”

Fellow women’s historians, please do join me in this endeavor.  Seasons greetings!