Posted by: Jason Gilpin, USAID
When I moved to Ukraine in 2007, I was pleasantly surprised that Women’s Day is a national holiday. Given all the inequality and injustice that women all over the world have faced and continue to face, I wondered why we in the United States hadn’t thought to celebrate a day outside Mother’s Day to honor the more than half of the world who get less than a quarter of the credit.
The origin of women’s rights in the United States is the Declaration of Independence of 1776, which declared that “all men are created equal.” As the English Dictionary, Merriam Webster points out, a definition of “man” is “the human race: mankind.” Unfortunately, it took my countrymen about a century and a half after 1776 to establish that “men” in the Declaration of Independence didn’t refer to the “male human,” it meant “the human race: mankind.” American women were denied the right to vote until 1920, but even at the time of America’s founding, the nation’s strength was dependent on the wisdom, prudence and perseverance of its women.
Even though women in revolutionary America were prohibited from voting, serving on juries, or even signing contracts, I wonder today how the
young USA could have succeeded without the wisdom, foresight, and courage of its founding mothers, such as Martha Washington, Abigail Adams, Margaret Catharine Moore Barry, and Dolley Madison (that’s not a typo – she spelled her name Dolley, although most people think it’s Dolly!).
Martha Washington is honored for having set the standard for intelligence, sensibility, and indefatigable patriotism in American women. She also continually encouraged her husband onward in the Revolution, despite the threat that she might very well lose everything she had, which was not at all insignificant, considering the fact that George Washington owed most of his wealth and economic status to her inheritance. (more…)