Wednesday, June 12, 2024

OPINION: Women's History Month in the words of three Sarahs

by EVAN KOCH/More Perfect Union
| March 29, 2023 1:00 AM

March is Womens’ History Month. For this one month we celebrate all that women have given us and all that they can do.

I work mostly with women, in politics and in health care. I texted five of them, all named Sarah coincidently, to ask how they think we should honor Women’s History Month. Three Sarahs managed to respond on my short notice.

Sarah 1 recalled the journalist Ida Wells and the Quaker suffragist Alice Paul. These women spearheaded the successful effort to pass women’s voting rights early in the 20th century.

She wrote that today Alice and Ida’s work “seems bastardized by every woman who chooses not to vote.”

Her words were particularly pertinent in view of the 27% of voters who defeated our school levies at the polls earlier this month.

She concluded that “women don’t think their vote matters, but they have an extraordinary power to change the country for the better. We've done it before and we can do it again.”

Sarah 2 agreed with Sarah 1. She described Sarah 1’s message as “beautifully spoken.” And echoed her urgency. “There has never been a more important time to encourage the women of our state and our local community to vote.”

Despite having gained the right to vote, women’s rights remain incomplete. Employers pay women 83 cents to the male dollar, and lenders provide women business owners with 8% fewer loans. Violence against women is a global pandemic. Women who are Black and who are not cis-gendered face both gender-based and race-based discrimination.

To be sure, women’s rights have advanced beyond where they were just a few decades ago. But recent setbacks (for example the elimination of abortion care in Idaho) leave me worried about what women’s rights might look like for future generations.

This concern for the future prompted Sarah 3 to run for office as a Democratic Precinct Captain.

“I want my daughter to know that I did everything I could to leave this world a better place for her,” Sarah 3 said. “I hope that one day my example will give her the courage to advocate in her own way for the things she cares about.”

One would be justified in thinking that celebrating Women’s History Month is a hollow gesture.

But if these Sarahs are representative, women remain determined and steadfastly optimistic about their futures. And that should inspire us all.

One thing we men should do is to listen more to women’s voices, paying attention to the substance of what they say and also to the feelings behind their words.

We should also embrace the fact that women are half of all humanity, and that women’s rights are human rights. Ratify the Equal Rights Amendment! No more and no less!

Perhaps more women (and men) will listen to the Sarahs, and vote in May to support the school levies.

To our wives, and to our sisters, friends and colleagues. To the journalists and suffragists. To the women in business, industry and government, and to those of you in the trades, the armed forces and the professions. (There are far too many for me to name in this short column.) Thank you for all you do. My hat is off to you for all 12 months of the year.

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Evan Koch is chairman of the Kootenai County Democrats.