August 26 is Women’s Equality Day in the US, and marks both the certification of the nineteenth amendment to the constitution, which granted universal women’s suffrage, and calls attention to the continuing efforts towards full equality for all women. Before the passage of the Susan B. Anthony Amendment women were, essentially, nonexistent in the eyes of the law after marriage. Men automatically assumed custody of children, and women had no property rights or legal recourse in most financial matters. Legally a husband could beat a wife because he was her custodial guardian. Women had no say in the creations of laws and services that affected them in every aspect of their lives.
When 1917 rolled around, suffragettes decided that the years of marching and bell-ringing on corners wasn’t enough to get President Wilson to push their amendment through congress. Organizers, including Alice Paul and Lucy Burns, moved their push to the White House gates. They picketed day and night at Lafayette Square in Washington and were arrested, battered, and assaulted by both angry passers-by and the police. Women were jailed in sweatshops and those who dared hunger-strike were force-fed by being pinned down and rubber tubing shoved into their gullets. And still, they pushed for the amendment—despite humiliation, bodily harm, and involuntary commitment to mental institutions. They knew that their sacrifices would be worth it for the generations of women and children to come.
And this is why I think that we, in the adoption community, should observe August 26—because these strong women marked the path that we take as advocates.
Some of us fight for the rights of families to raise their children internationally.
Some of us fight for birth parents to have open access as the normal result of adoption.
Some of us fight on behalf of adoptees who just want to have their records unsealed.
We fight with our lawmakers to better fund health and family care.
We fight, often hand in hand with our social workers, to make sure that parental rights are not severed prematurely.
We fight for insurance inclusions, we fight for public health, for free contraception and better sex-ed in order to prevent unwanted pregnancies from occurring, and for adoption education to provide birth families additional choices.
But in the midst of it all, we are fighting for our kids and their futures.
I dare say that there is not one of us mother (and father) bears that would not take a beating or a force-feeding to ensure that our babies are healthy and safe, that their first parents are healthy and safe, and that our legacy is one of stronger, safer, fairer adoptions and family laws.
So as a woman, as a mother, as an advocate for women and children and families in all of their many forms, thank you, suffragettes. Thank you for your work to make sure that our voices are heard today. We will keep it going.
Want more information about the 2016 Women’s Equality Day events and honorees?
Want to know more about the American Women’s Suffrage Movement?