In honor of Women’s History Month, NETWORK staff, including myself, had the awesome opportunity to attend a reception hosted by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)honoring both Women’s History Month and change makers in American politics. Sadly, Geraldine Ferraro, who remains one of the biggest trailblazers in American politics, passed away a week before the event. Geraldine Ferraro, the 1984 Democratic vice presidential nominee, led the way for women everywhere to break into the men-only club of politics. The entire evening served as a beautiful tribute to Geraldine Ferraro’s life, work and continual efforts to break open the glass ceiling for women everywhere.
That evening, we watched the video of Ferraro’s acceptance speech from that historic day in 1984, accompanied by scenes of a convention center filled with individuals clapping and cheering, energized by the knowledge that they were witnessing history in the making. Pelosi’s tribute called to mind a quote from Ferraro’s acceptance speech at the 1984 convention, “Every one of us is given the gift of life, and what a strange gift it is,” Ferraro had said. “If it is preserved jealously and selfishly, it impoverishes and saddens. But if it is spent for others, it enriches and beautifies.”
Remembering NETWORK’s founding based on the principle of changing unjust systems that perpetuate inequity - along with Geraldine Ferraro’s call for a life in service to others - I must bear in mind that we have a long way to go to achieve women’s equality. Yes, the women mentioned above have championed women’s rights and put far more cracks in the glass ceiling than I will ever realize - and have myself benefited from - but we cannot be fooled into thinking the work for women’s equality is over. Last year’s national election produced the first decline of elected congresswomen in nearly 30 years - and only seventeen percent of our members of Congress are women.
Congressional offices are not the only place where progress may have stalled. Today, women confront the glass ceiling every day - through the realities of poverty. Poverty remains highest among families headed by single women, which is especially true when those families are headed by black or Hispanic heads of households. Hunger remains no less of a concern for women and their families, with 36.6 percent of households headed by single women classified as food insecure. I write this all to emphasize that we still have a long way to go, both in the halls of Congress, and for the basic right of women to be able to earn a decent wage and feed their families.
So despite our advances, we haven’t come as far as women might have hoped we would on that day in 1984. But I am comforted by the fact that all those women who cheered for Ferraro’s accomplishments have laid the groundwork for future women. And each generation will continue to lay the groundwork for greater equality until women have both the ability to be elected to Congress in proportionate numbers and the ability to feed their families.