Thank you, YWCA, for this tribute, and thanks for all you do to encourage confidence, leadership, equal opportunities, fairness and assistance through the many programs you operate. Thank you to my nominators, League of Women Voters, AAUW, and the UW-L Self-Sufficiency Program, and thanks to my husband of almost 52 years, George, for his encouragement and tolerance of things I neglect.
Through League, AAUW, American Association of University Women, and SSP, I am only part of a team.
League was established 97 years ago when women first gained the right to vote. It’s significant to always remember that women in this country went a long time, 130 years, as 2nd class citizens- not able to vote, and many of those years not able to own property. Men at that time, and many women, were quite o.k. with that. It took many voices, both quiet and loud, protests, marches and even hunger strikes to bring about change. League was formed with the adoption of the 19th Amendment to encourage women to be informed citizens, to vote, and to actively participate in democracy. League continues today to work for fair, open, transparent government, and for the right of every citizen to a vote that counts. The lessons I’ve learned from League are the importance of studying issues from all sides, the importance of listening to diverse views considering implications of those views, and to take a position only after learning about the issues. I’ve also learned that with complacency, the hard sought gains of those women, and men, who came before us can be lost.
AAUW is an even older organization of 136 years formed by 17 women who dared to believe women should have the opportunity for higher education, and with education, should have employment opportunities. AAUW’s first research was to debunk the belief of a prominent Boston physician who pronounced that education is harmful to women’s health. AAUW continues with cutting edge research on sexual harassment, equal pay, bullying and discrimination. It advocates strongly for equal opportunities and for fair policies and treatment of women and families, and it promotes education with national annual scholarships and grants of 3.7 million dollars in addition to local scholarships and grants provided by branches in all 50 states.
In this country, women have made progress, but we still have work to do. For example, the United States still has not ratified the Equal Rights Amendment introduced by Alice Paul in 1923, reintroduced and adopted by both houses of Congress in 1972. It still falls short of the 38 states needed to ratify the amendment. With complacency we stand still and even lose some of the rights and protections that were gained through the hard work of others.
The greatest part of volunteering and getting involved in civic organizations and activities are the people I meet, and what I learn in the process. I’m constantly inspired and propelled by people I meet.
Democracy really isn’t a spectator sport. It requires being vigilant, keeping an open mind, listening to diverse views and speaking out. My friend Andrea includes the following quote by Pastor Martin Niemoller on each of her emails which serves as a reminder to me.
First they came for the Communists
And I did not speak out, because I was not a Communist
Then they came for the Socialists
And I did not speak out, because I was not a Socialist
Then they came for the trade unionists
And I did not speak out, because I was not a trade unionist
Then they came for the Jews
And I did not speak out, because I was not a Jew
Then they came for me
And there was no one left to speak out for me
— Pastor Martin Niemoller
Please have the courage to speak out for those who need our help.