Eve Weinbaum and Rachel Roth: Beyond suffrage: How far have women come since?






Eve Weinbaum is director of the Labor Center and an associate professor of sociology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Rachel Roth is director of communications and foundation support at the National Network of Abortion Funds and the author of a book on women's rights.

Today we celebrate the anniversary of female suffrage, a victory that took more than 70 years of political struggle to achieve. After women won the right to vote in 1920, socialist feminist Crystal Eastman observed that suffrage was an important first step but that what women really wanted was freedom. In an essay titled "Now We Can Begin," she laid out a plan toward this goal that is still relevant today.

Eastman outlined a four-point program: economic independence for women (including freedom to choose an occupation and equal pay), gender equality at home (raising "feminist sons" to share the responsibilities of family life), "voluntary motherhood" (reproductive freedom) and "motherhood endowment," or financial support for child-rearing and homemaking.

Since the 1920s, women have won many rights and opportunities in areas as diverse as higher education, professional sports and, in six states, same-sex marriage. But on the core priorities that Eastman identified, how far have we come?

Eastman optimistically called equality in the workplace "the easiest part of our program," noting that "the ground is already broken" on women's participation in various professions, trades and unions. One of the chief barriers was "inequality in pay," a problem that has proved remarkably enduring....




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