Tomorrow’s inaugural ceremonies will adhere, for the most part, to a standard format that has been practiced for decades. What will follow the ceremony and parade, however, is anyone’s guess. Our nation has never had a presidential administration where the commander-in-chief has neither government nor military experience, and whose Cabinet appointees seem bent on destroying the progress made in diplomacy, education, energy, the environment, housing, health, etc. Looks like Mr. Trump is “draining the swamp” mostly with wealthy, white, older, male, alligators!
Women, especially, were devastated with the election of Mr. Trump. Younger women, who were excited to see a remarkably qualified woman be nominated for president, anticipated that the infamous glass ceiling, finally, would shatter. Sadly, that ceiling still is intact, and the Electoral College victory of Mr. Trump is a loss not only for Hillary Clinton and her supporters, but for women across America. That’s why participants in Saturday’s Women’s March are saying “hell, no!” A small grass roots effort, begun via a Facebook posting, has taken on gargantuan proportions, and more than 200,000 marchers, female and male, are expected at the National Mall.
When my mother was born, in early 1920, her mother did not yet have the right to vote. The 19th Amendment, granting suffrage to women, was adopted in August of that year. As I participated in the 75th anniversary march on Capitol Hill in 1995, I recalled the many opportunities available to my daughters that were won by advocates in previous generations. And I recalled the challenges, too, as an eyewitness to change.
The first admonition in the Dean of Women’s guidebook for new students noted that “young women at the University of Oregon do not wear pants.” If you had the audacity to wear slacks, you had to cover them with a long coat. In my senior year, the professor for the new Public Administration class told me that I had no business being there; it was structured for male careers in government. Obviously, I didn’t take his advice! On Capitol Hill, the only women permitted on the Senate floor were the two female Senators – Margaret Chase Smith (R-Maine) and Maurine Neuberger (D-Oregon). Other women, even chiefs of staff and legislative principals, were not permitted. When Senate Rules finally capitulated, women had to wear skirts, not pants (nothing said about coat coverage).
Title IX in 1972, Roe v. Wade in 1973 and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act of 1974 marked significant legal transformations for women’s rights. Until then, education and sports for girls were treated differently than for boys. Access for women’s reproductive health care was determined to be an inalienable right. A single woman could get credit in her birth name, but upon marriage, credit would be re-issued in the husband’s name only, not the new married name of the woman. In Virginia Slims vernacular (a 1968 cigarette ad), “we’ve come a long way, baby.”
But there still is a long way to go, and the spectre of a rude, misogynist bully in the Oval Office should motivate us all to defend what has been hard won, and fight for continued progress forward, not backward. That’s what already makes America great.
Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor, in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.