Monday, July 19, 2010

Celebrate Seneca Falls

Today in 1848, the first U.S. women's rights convention was held in Seneca Falls, New York. Those of you who are astute observers of history will note that even though the women at that conference called for voting rights, women would not be able to exercise their right to vote until 1920, long after black men were enfranchised. And yes, I am painfully aware that even though we have the right to vote, we may be intimidated enough to stay home or we may go out to vote, only to realize that our votes have never been counted.

What I love about this country is our long arc towards justice. We haven't always gotten it right. It's interesting to read the Declaration of Independence and to realize how many of those signers were wealthy white men. I'm always interested in the risks that those powerful, wealthy white men were willing to take to create the world that they envisioned, a world that was more in line with their values. Think about our current time and tell me how many wealthy, powerful folks are doing the same.

Too few of us live by the Scout motto: "Leave the campsite better than you found it." The Seneca Falls women did.

Those of us who are women owe the Seneca Falls women a debt of gratitude. Where would we be if they had not come together? They faced ridicule at the idea that women were people and should be granted full rights: the right to work, the right to own property, the right to control wealth, the right to vote. Now many of us in the first world enjoy those rights.

Alas, there are many women in the world who have no legal protections at all. Today is also the anniversary of the day that five women were put to death for witchcraft in Salem in 1692. Go here to The Writer's Almanac site and scroll down to read more about the issues that swirled around Salem in the late part of the 17th century--many of us probably had no idea.

It's an interesting juxtaposition of anniversaries, and it serves as a sobering reminder of the importance of securing legal rights--and the importance of creating a society that respects and honors those rights.

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