It’s ironic that in the very same period that the East Coast is experiencing a hurricane and a rare strong earthquake, we commemorate two “earth shaking” historic events. On August 18, 1920, women won a years-long fight for suffrage with ratification of the 19th Amendment; and on August 28, 1963, hundreds of thousands of Americans spoke out for jobs and freedom at the March on Washington led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
At both those moments, disenfranchised individuals stood up to demand that their voices be heard. To honor these victories for equality and justice, NCJW is proud to join several coalition partners to launch HERvotes, a voter education and mobilization effort for women and those who care about women’s Health and Economic Rights, leading up to the November 2012 elections.
The gains achieved between and beyond 1920 and 1963 paved the way for other landmark laws that have improved the health, well-being, economic security, and equality of women. Now many of these gains are at risk.
Several efforts in Congress aim to undermine crucial safety net programs – Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid – with irresponsible funding cuts, which would have a disproportionate impact on women, who rely heavily on these programs. Take away Social Security, and nearly half of all elderly women – 8.5 million − would slip below the poverty line.
The safety net is a women’s economic security issue, and we must vote to protect it in 2012. Why do we need a safety net? Because since the recession officially ended in 2009, women have actually lost jobs.
In fact, this recession is the first since 1970 in which women have lost jobs even as men have gained them, which is a disparity yet to be explained by economists. Job creation is a women’s issue, and we must vote in 2012 to make sure that this issue is addressed.
We must also work to preserve our health care security. The Affordable Care Act, the 2010 health reform law, ushered in a new era for women: no more fighting with insurance companies which charged women more than men for the same coverage; no more worrying about being dropped from your plan if you have a pre-existing condition; and no more debating whether or not you can afford critical preventive services, like cancer screenings or contraception. Access to affordable health care is a women’s issue, and women need to vote in 2012 to preserve these historic improvements.
At the launch of HERvotes, NCJW and our partners unveiled a top 10 list of additional achievements for women now under siege. This list serves as a reminder about what is at stake in the 2012 elections and why women must turn out to vote.
As women, we fought long and hard for the right to vote, and we should never take it for granted. I would love to see the day when 100% of women in the U.S. exercise their right to vote, particularly when so much is at risk.
We at NCJW are thrilled to have marked this meaningful week by joining with powerful women in every community for HERvotes. Together − by urging women to exercise their right to vote − we can create a groundswell, a movement to elevate a women’s agenda.
Nancy K. Kaufman is the chief executive officer of the National Council for Jewish Women. This Sisterhood post was originally posted on the NCJW website, and is being cross-posted with other blogs, including those at Moms Rising, the National Women’s Law Center and Ms. Magazine.