National Women’s History Month 2016 draws to a close. After centuries of wives being regarded as chattel, social justice for women has been on the rise since the mid-19th century’s passage of the Married Women’s Property Act in a number of American states.
Faded into the role of obscure metaphorical allusion is “the rule of thumb” which, according to English jurisprudence, granted husbands the right to chastise their spouses with a stick no more broad than his thumb.
In 1920, the power of women grew by leaps and bounds with the passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States establishing universal suffrage. The fundamental civil right of all citizens to vote has forever reshaped the American political landscape.
Dr. King would affirm decades later that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” One satisfactory benchmark for parity between the sexes remains untested: abolishing male-centric policies in the workplace around compensation and advancement. As Michael Moore proposed in “Where to Invade Next”, following Iceland’s lead and electing more women to representative bodies would be a good first step.
We still need the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution. Despite the passage of the landmark Lilly Ledbetter Act, bending the arc of moral justice toward “equal pay for equal work” remains an as yet unachieved dream.
It is well-documented that female nurse practitioners still earn 11 percent less than their male counterparts. For decades, female physician assistants, likewise, have noted discrepancies with the income of male colleagues. It is tragic enough that women have historically found themselves disadvantaged wherever they compete directly with men.
For the so-called “pink collar careers” like teaching, professions typically staffed predominantly by women, it is unconscionable that starting salaries now frequently fail to support families, or even to service the debt acquired while pursuing the mandated credentials.
Women, indeed, have come a long way; the work, however, is still in progress.
[The original version of the Commentary appeared in the now defunct Prince George’s Gazette on March 27, 2014.]