JOAN WARD: Elect a President Who'll Be Like Our Foremothers
Sisters! At last we have a golden opportunity to elect a woman to the White House and provide ultimate fulfillment of the hopes and dreams fueled by our courageous foremothers!
We will not have won the vote completely till Hillary Clinton is president of the United States. We simply must not let this chance slip by to do honor to the long, difficult process of women's suffrage -- which actually began in the 1830s in America.
In her fine book, "Joyous Greetings: The First International Women's Movement 1830 to 1860," Dr. Bonnie S. Anderson -- professor at Brooklyn College and Graduate Center, CCNY -- documents the beginning of women's suffrage in Europe and America.
A lively correspondence and travel between women in Britain, Germany, France and the United States inaugurated dialogue, publishing, and strategic planning among this international community of feminists. They sought to educate the world about misogynist social, political, and religious practices affecting the lives of women.
When our Civil War erupted, these courageous women focused their attention upon emancipation of Negro slaves -- setting aside their personal struggle against malignant sexism in America. Black men would be given the vote. All women were denied the vote!
It would take another generation of brutalized, ostracized and maligned suffragettes to bring that about in the 1920s. It is hard for young women of today to imagine what a costly and very personal struggle this was.
In 1995, First Lady Hillary Clinton, as honorary chairperson of the U.S. delegation to the U.N. Fourth World Conference on Women held in Beijing, China, gave a speech containing startling evidence of worldwide violations of the health, well-being, and safety of women and children the world over.
Her rallying cry continues to be proclaimed: "Women's rights are human rights, and human rights are women's rights!" Thus was launched a modern-day suffrage movement of international proportions. During the U.N.-sponsored "Decade of Women" and the subsequent "Decade of Children," religious denominations, worldwide banks, social service and health-care agencies, corporations, governments, and political systems formed alliances on behalf of women and children in Third-World nations.
Hillary Clinton wisely uses her political clout on behalf of the "least of these" -- women and families -- in places where exploitation and murder of families is daily fare. Wars in the Middle East create more of the same. As president, Hillary Clinton will bring her experience and heart for service to these difficult situations.
Hillary Clinton is a well-informed, articulate, energetic and inspiring advocate for people. At Wake Forest University recently, the presidential candidate was honored by poet Maya Angelou -- who quoted her fine poem "Still I Rise" in honor of Sen. Clinton. It celebrates the courage of the strong woman who rises above the invective hurled by her detractors.
Hillary has done that even in the worst moments of personal and political humiliation. She articulates the issues intelligently and substantively. Every campaign speech is a teaching moment. She maintains her dignity and sense of humor, exhibiting kindness and compassion to those who seek her out.
As a role model for ambitious and talented women, Hillary represents well the generations of women who now succeed in professions once dominated by men -- setting an example for younger women and teaching them how to do it.
Women are serving as heads of state in countries all around this world. American women certainly deserve no less a witness to "equality for all" in this democracy. Clinton has trained for this job all of her life -- to which the numerous biographies of her life attest.
In this arduous campaign, Clinton emerges full of vinegar, grace, and grit -- and the smarts required to win the election and be president of the United States. Like our foremothers, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony -- called "crackpots" and "utopians" in their day -- Hillary Clinton is fearless in advocating on behalf of the powerless.
Traditionally, political and economic parity has been an uphill battle for American women. Now, in 2008, we can turn that around for American women of all ages. President Hillary Clinton will fulfill the promise of those early suffragettes -- the foremothers who risked their lives to give us the right to vote. In this spirit, we will finally have an American government by, for, and of the people. All the people.
Rise, Hillary, rise!
Dr. Joan Ward is an ordained minister who lives in Pinehurst.
More like this story