August 26, 2020
By Jessica DiSanto, Senior Director of Communications at United Way
Today, Americans are celebrating Women’s Equality Day, a day commemorating the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, adopted on August 18, 1920 (although the 19th Amendment did not, however, guarantee any woman the vote).
When I was asked to contribute something in the spirit of this milestone, I couldn’t pinpoint where I wanted to go. I couldn’t quite weave together a narrative. I’m not a scholar. I’m not a suffragist. But I have random thoughts about womanhood, so please allow me to share them with you.
Note: These are my thoughts, my opinions, my impressions. If you are a woman and feel differently, I celebrate you!
My 19 Musings about Being a Woman.
19. I’m a happy to be female, even with all the challenges that go with it. My mother would likely laugh if she heard me say that, though. To her, I was a little girl who wanted to “do what the boys did.” Play “kick-the-can” in the middle of my Seattle neighborhood with my older brother and all his friends. See Star Wars. Play matchbox cars.
18. That attitude has only improved. Flag football, golf, skydiving, Crossfit. If it’s a stereotypical “guy’s game,” I want to smash that glass ceiling.
17. Never miss out on Ken Burns’ PBS documentaries, especially “Prohibition.” In true dramatic storytelling fashion, the series opens with how the temperance movement begins. After seeing it, I said out loud, “Well, I’ll be. Because wives were so sick of being beaten by their inebriated husbands, an entire movement is created and the Constitution is changed.”
16. I graduated from Greenwood High School. Home of the Woodmen. The school tried to adopt a more inclusive mascot – calling the girls’ sporting teams the “Lady Woodmen.” That didn’t make it any better, in my opinion. Just give me the axe and call me a LumberJill.
15. Women aren’t just voting. They are answering the call for leadership. According to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, more women are running for the U.S. House and Senate seats nationwide than ever before.
14. Two weeks ago, Jeopardy! began airing shows from its vault. The first “Champions Re-match” featured the first female winner from the 1980s. Alex Trebek asked her this question: “Since becoming the first woman to win at Jeopardy, how many offers have you received from interested men?” I know it was taped 20 years ago, but all I wanted to do was put a fork in my eye.
13. Go read America’s Women. Abigail Adams’ story is remarkable. With her husband John frequently away, Abigail sheltered refugees and soldiers, managed her household finances, ran the farm, helped sick neighbors all around her, and raised five children. She asked her husband to “remember the ladies” in crafting new laws for a new country, only to be crushed by her husband’s response, “I cannot but laugh.”
12. Inspired by Abigail Adams, I chose the name Abby for my second daughter.
11. And in between reading chapters of America’s Women, watch Dr. Jennifer Gunter’s brilliant TedTALK. Warning, it’s period talk.
10. Because my job is PR, I’m particularly fond of the fact that First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt had women-only press conferences.
9. The Gender Wage Gap. Sigh.
8. “We need a locker room with both genders, a bench with all the bases covered, in order to have a work environment where men and women both shine.” Marian Salzman, CEO of Havas PR North America.
7. My family heroine is Granny Freeney. She was one of 10 children who grew up poor in the Deep South. She married at age 19. I wonder if most women like her married young to escape poverty.
6. Granny Freeney had 10 pregnancies with only four surviving children. At age 48, she earned her bachelor’s in education, began teaching creative writing and English at her local high school, and lost her husband to a heart attack. She had strength beyond my imagination.
5. I wear my great grandmother Emma’s wedding ring on my right hand. She was a prolific writer of her everyday life in the late 19th century. She gave her ring to Granny Freeney, who then willed it to me. My first daughter, Emma, will inherit this ring if she is a good girl.
4. I enjoyed the job of birth giver and breast feeder to my two daughters. Selfishly, no one could do this job, and I loved it even more just because of that.
3. “There are three stages in a woman’s life: birth, death, and ‘too ambitious.’” @kashana, Twitter.
2. I’m grateful for the trail-blazing female crusaders who fought for my right to have a vote, my right to own my own home, my right to get divorced and re-marry, my right to choose when and if I wanted to have children, my right to seek a higher education, and my right to find my own career path.
1. Can you imagine how different our country’s history would look had we given the right to vote to all women and people of color from the very beginning, when it was declared that we were *all* created equal?”
Happy Birthday, 19th Amendment.
–Jessica Di Santo