From Seneca Falls to Selma, to the 2nd Inauguration of President Obama: Women’s Rights

From the Jan. 21, 2013 Inaugural Address of President Obama: “We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths – that all of us are created equal – is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth”.

Early each year through our dedicated history months – February for African-Americans and March for Women— we are reminded of the shared struggles and ongoing efforts for racial and gender equality. The course of these struggles and efforts has, on occasion intersected, but all too often run parallel and in opposition.

Two mothers of America’s women’s rights movement came together in London in 1840 during the World Anti-Slavery Convention. Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott were among the delegation but were denied the ability to participate because they were women. They returned to the United States determined to advance the rights of not only African Americans but women as well.

While African American men were granted to the legal right to vote nearly 50 years prior to women these rights were not fully realized until many decades later. The struggles for equality increase when race and gender meet – women of color experience inequities to an exponential degree. This year marked the 100thanniversary of Rosa Parks birth – a women who helped to propel the civil rights movement and illustrate a quiet, yet deafening courage.

But nearly 60 years since, Ms. Parks refused to give up her seat; women –especially women of color – have yet to gain full equality in the workforce. These inequities impact the health of countless individuals and families.

According to the Department of Labor statistics from 2010:

·        Women comprised 46.8 percent of the total U.S. labor force and are projected to account for 46.9 percent of the labor force in 2018.

·        Women are projected to account for 51.2 percent of the increase in total labor force growth between 2008 and 2018.

·        66 million women were employed in the U.S.—73 percent of employed women worked on full-time jobs, while 27 percent worked on a part-time basis.

·        The largest percentage of employed Asian, white, and black women (46, 41, and 34 percent, respectively) worked in management, professional, and related occupations. For Hispanic women, it was sales and office occupations—33 percent.

·        The median weekly earnings of women who were full-time wage and salary workers was $669, or 81 percent of men’s $824. When comparing the median weekly earnings of persons aged 16 to 24, young women earned 95 percent of what young men earned ($422 and $443, respectively).

·        The unemployment rate for all women was 8.6 percent and 10.5 percent for men in 2010. For Asian women it was 7.1 percent; white women, 7.7 percent; Hispanic women, 12.3 percent; and black women, 13.8 percent.

Women still face a glass ceiling and inequitable wages.

·        Women of color currently make up about 33 percent of the female workforce and are twice as likely as their white female counterparts to be employed in lower-wage sectors such as the service industry. (Center for American Progress)

·        In communities of color the labor segmentation becomes even more apparent. In 2007 only 5.6 percent of black women and 4.8 percent of Latina women were in management positions. The service industry was the most common occupation for black and Latina women, at 27 percent and 30 percent, respectively. And the health care industry is the largest employer for Asian American and Pacific Islander women. (Center for American Progress)

The implication for women’s health is undeniable.

·        While women of color represent 36.3 percent of the U.S. female population, they account for 53.2 percent of uninsured women, with Hispanics having the highest uninsured rates across all other racial and ethnic groups. (Center for American Progress)

·        In 2010, 28 percent of African Americans relied on Medicaid compared to 11 percent of non-Hispanic whites. As many as 9 million low-income Latinos will gain health care coverage due to the expanded Medicaid eligibility under Obamacare. (Center for American Progress)

·        Women of color have historically had substandard health care and education, which has often led to higher rates of unplanned pregnancies. Disparities in reproductive health have caused Latina women to experience unintended pregnancies at double the rate of white women, and African American women experience unintended pregnancies at three times the rate.(Center for American Progress)

We can learn so much for our collective past and apply those lessons to our collective future. At this time and in this era, we must try to come together to face our struggles as one. We must come together and fight rights and for equality for ourselves, for our friends, for our neighbors and for those strangers who we have never met.

Our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth

Only through this freedom we can attempt to achieve the goal of happiness and the right to good health.

*** Here is a link to a brief timeline of the struggles and efforts to achieve equality in this country.

For more information on these issues:

Department of Labor:http://www.dol.gov/wb/factsheets/QS-womenwork2010.htm

Women in America: Indicators of Social and Economic Well-Being (March 2011), Prepared by the Economics and Statistics Administration and the Executive Office of the President, Office of Management and Budget, for the White House Council on Women and Girls http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/rss_viewer/Women_in_America.pdf

Women and the Economy 2010: 25 Years of Progress But Challenges Remain(August 2010) U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee http://op.bna.com/dlrcases.nsf/id/lswr-88nlnb/$File/Women%20Workers%20JEC.pdf

The State of Women of Color in the United States: Although They’ve Made Incredible Strides, Many Barriers Remain for This Growing Population http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/race/report/2012/07/17/11923/the-state-of-women-of-color-in-the-united-states/
 Talk to us!  How do you feel about racial equality and gender equality?  Do you think the struggle is over?  What about equal pay for equal work?
Article by Darci L. Graves,  MA, MA, MPP
Health Power Editor on Spirituality, Culture and Health, and Aging; and Senior Health Education and Policy Specialist at SRA International, Inc.
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