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Bittinger: The Women's March

By now the “I voted” stickers have fallen off the grave of Susan B. Anthony in Rochester, New York. Yes, on election day, November 8th, many voted for a woman candidate for president and then lined up to place their stickers on or near Anthony’s grave. Of course the famous suffragist never lived long enough to vote herself. Charlotte Woodward, who signed the Declaration at Seneca Falls in 1848 with the goal of gaining suffrage, was the only signer still alive in 1920. And today, some of us may not live long enough to see a woman as president of the United States. It seems the culture of patriarchy is deeply ingrained here, and for women’s rights, years must past before we see change.

When women took the brave step of demanding the right to vote in 1848, it made many people angry and frightened. When hoop skirts and corsets were thrown out in favor of bloomers, some laughed at the women who wore them. But they foreshadowed the pantsuit nation we saw form in this election cycle.

With the 2016 election, we were reminded that a U.S. President is expected to be Commander in Chief, which many Americans still regard as a male role. In the words of Laura A. Liswood, secretary general of the United Nations Foundation’s Council of Women World Leaders, “America is still seen as the policeman of the world, the guardian of the world and we still have a very gendered version of what leadership means.”

I’d suggest the political parties look to a woman military general as a future candidate. Maybe she'd be considered tough enough for the job.
Americans who wish to promote women’s rights and create a movement again have proposed a march on Washington, D.C., January 21st, the day after the presidential inauguration. Far from sour grapes over a female candidate’s loss, this action is intended to reflect wider concerns – especially, according to the Women’s March website, the need for women to have “parity and equity at all levels of leadership in society.”

It took 72 years of marching and organizing before women got the vote, and we’re still waiting for a female president. But the pressing issues today deserve addressing sooner rather than later, and this march will remind us all that “women’s rights are human rights.”

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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