Congratulations to the women elected to serve as councilors for the cities of Las Cruces and Mesilla. And thank you to voters who made this impossible dream possible.
American Women have been fighting for equality and justice starting with the Suffragette movement in the 1800s demanding a woman’s right to vote. Women who tried to vote where arrested and jailed. Women went on hunger strikes, rallies, parades, protests and marches. Those who participated in these events were subject to contempt, ridiculed, and harassed as they continued their fight for equality. Finally the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified in 1920 giving women the right to vote. But the battle was not over.
Women continued to be discriminated against in areas affecting their every day lives, i.e. employment, credit, housing, education and health care to name a few. The fight to pass the 34th Amendment to the Constitution granting equal rights to women failed by three votes.
In 1974, Gov. David Cargo of New Mexico established the Commission for the Status of Women as a Valentine's Day present. New Mexico passed the Equal Rights Amendment, which struck down laws that discriminated against both men and women. A group of women came to New Mexico in a pink bus from the Church of Christ in Oklahoma to persuade the New Mexico Legislature to overturn the ERA. While some of our New Mexico legislature supported it, Gov. Bruce King vetoed it. Laws have been passed to eliminate discrimination against women. And while progress has been made there is still work to be done.
Bias still exists to place women in higher paying positions and management roles. Blue collar jobs, which usually pay more than administrative positions, should be open to women as apprentices and internships and there should be a welcoming environment in those workplaces. Rosie the Riveter did it in World War II. While this is not a perfect world, we can make it better, not only for women, but open to all who strive to be all that they can be. Barriers must be struck down in education, and in the voting booths. Yes, we still have a long way to go, but we are getting there. Let's keep it going.
Frances F. Williams has served as a commissioner on the Commission for the Status of Women, director for Equal Employment Opportunity for the Army at White Sands Missile Range, a United Nations delegate for the International Women’s Year Conferences held in the United States, Mexico and China, and selected as an Outstanding Woman of New Mexico, the Governor’s award for Public Service, and the Secretary of the Army’s meritorious award for her work in equal employment.
This article originally appeared on Las Cruces Sun-News: We've come a long way, baby, but still work to do