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Bittinger: The Women's Vote

(Host) There's been much discussion and analysis of the women's vote in the 2012 election. Commentator Cyndy Bittinger is a teacher, writer and historian who notes that this time, the women's vote clearly mattered.

(Bittinger)In 2012, more women voted than men. Of those, 55% voted to re-elect President Obama. Also women candidates sprang into action in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. New Hampshire will make history by sending the first all woman delegation to Congress! Massachusetts will send Professor Elizabeth Warren to Congress as its first woman Senator. In the past, it was believed that women couldn't raise enough money to be serious candidates. But in 2012, dollars flowed to female leaders, so that myth is also history.

A vital part of the president's re-election strategy was to gather votes from women who saw their concerns addressed by his party. Democratic campaign offices in the Upper Valley were filled with both young college age women and female senior citizens. Older women were once again working to resolve issues they thought had been settled long ago - women like Lilly Ledbetter - for whom The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act is named. Ledbetter is a white Southern woman who worked for a living along side men who were paid more money for doing the same job she did. Her activism can't change her personal history or right the wrongs she had suffered, but now she lobbies for the next generation.
Other issues that moved women to action included continued funding for Planned Parenthood. Women want this health care provider to remain available to the middle class and the poor.

Birth control, abortion and rape continue to be compelling issues. Women are concerned that a fringe element in the Tea Party would, if given a chance, outlaw abortions even in cases resulting from rapes. And The Affordable Health Care Act is perceived as being favorable to other women's health concerns - like access to birth control.

Women care about education. Maggie Hassan, New Hampshire's new woman governor, promises to restore draconian cuts to the UNH budget. More than half of the students there are female.

Women also perceive equal rights struggles - such as the Same Sex Marriage drive - to be important. And in 2012, Maine, the most conservative state in New England, reversed its 2009 ballot measure to allow same sex marriage.

Then there's Big Bird. Many of us raised our children watching Sesame Street and weren't happy to realize that the funding for high quality children's programming like this, could be on the chopping block.

Vermont leads the nation with 40% of our state legislature now comprised of women. Women lead three of our powerful House committees. But we haven't yet sent a woman to Congress. And in 1986 Vermont defeated an effort to pass an Equal Rights Amendment for our state Constitution - never mind that the federal Equal Rights Amendment is still languishing - lacking just three more states to ratify it.

Cyndy Bittinger is a writer and historian, who teaches at the Community College of Vermont. Her latest book is, "Vermont Women, Native Americans and African Americans: Out of the Shadows of History."
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