In 1848, women could not legally own property, file a lawsuit, or have custody of their children after a divorce. It was in this restrictive social climate that a group of radically progressive women organized a convention on July 19th in Seneca Falls, New York. They united around the pursuit of a new set of rights that included the right to own property and earn wages, the right to enroll at colleges and universities, and the right to vote. It would be decades before these rights would begin to be realized, but the women who met at Seneca Falls ignited a movement that put the status of women at the forefront of national consciousness for the first time.
Recent events have made it clear that the work started at Seneca Falls is far from done. The Hobby Lobby ruling placed the rights of corporations over the rights of female employees (a bill that would have reversed the decision was recently blocked in the Senate), surges in anti-abortion legislation have closed women’s clinics across the country, and key measures of the Violence Against Women Act faced heated opposition in Congress just last year. The ugly, too-often unspoken reality is that these attacks on women’s rights disproportionately impact the most commonly disenfranchised groups in America: undocumented immigrants, low-income families, single mothers, the LGBT community, and Native American women living on reservations.
Today, it is important for us to celebrate the march toward progress that began at the Seneca Falls convention, but also to recommit to a continued fight for women’s equality, one that is inclusive of all women regardless of race, class, sexual orientation or zip code. We believe one of the most important parts of this effort is to make sure that women are at the table when policies are being set. That’s why we support progressive female candidates like Wendy Davis and Lucy Flores, among many others, who advocate for policies that give women full control over their bodies and their lives.
Until every woman in America has legally-protected access to physical security, quality healthcare, and educational and occupational opportunity, we cannot truly say that women are equal citizens in America.