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It’s not a happy birthday for Elizabeth Cady Stanton.
The leading suffragist was born on Nov. 12, 1815, but her 195th birthday comes amid a concerted attack on the nation’s highest elected woman.
he despicable attempt to demean Nancy Pelosi’s achievements as the House Democratic leader and to belittle her determination to keep her leadership role shows how precarious a woman’s place in U.S. politics remains.
It was Pelosi who insisted that President Obama deliver meaningful health care reform instead of abandoning ship. It was Pelosi who got the House to pass crucial bills on jobs and global warming, which the Senate unfortunately squashed. She kept a fractious Democratic Party in line in the House, which is no small task.
No male politician with her skills and accomplishments would be treated so badly. The double standard lives on.
Stanton would applaud Pelosi’s grit and determination, in the face of ridicule, to carry on in the leadership position she has rightfully earned.
Stanton was not only among the first to call for women’s suffrage. She was the first woman candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives. She firmly believed in the importance of women’s political power.
When Stanton grew up, there wasn’t only a glass ceiling; there was a “no woman allowed” sign at every door.
Despite a brilliant intellect, Stanton was barred, as a woman, from college, from a respectable career, and from the rights and duties of citizenship itself.
As a newly married abolitionist, Stanton was silenced and curtained off from participation at the World’s Anti-Slavery Convention — a humiliation that opened her eyes to the civil enslavement of all women. As a disenfranchised citizen, Stanton called the ballot “the mightiest engine yet . . . for the uprooting of ignorance, tyranny, superstition, the overturning of thrones, altars, kings, popes, despotisms, monarchies and empires.”
Even some friends castigated her when she had the temerity to insist that suffrage be part of the plank of the first women’s rights convention in 1848. The press, the clergy and representatives of polite society piled on.
Stanton later recalled “how the Bible was hurled at us from every side” by critics citing scripture and verse to gag “uppity” women. And the very women’s movement she had co-founded scorned her for writing “The Woman’s Bible,” which criticized religion and fearlessly urging women to replace superstition and belief with “science and reason.”
But Stanton never backed down. Neither should Pelosi.
Annie Laurie Gaylor is co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., and is editor of the newspaper Freethought Today and the anthology, “Women Without Superstition: No Gods - No Masters.” She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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