3.23.2006

Some things to keep you busy while I am busy

I think I might need to not post for awhile...like a few days or something. Work, life, family stuff all keeping me busy through the weekend. In the meantime, so you don't get too bored at work:

1. Something sad that you can also get angry about if you feel up to it.

2. Something to read and think about, related to the lack of a health or rape exception in South Dakota's new abortion law.

3. An amusing poem by nuqotw for National Poetry Day, although it was really World Poetry Day. (It was two days ago, but I had bigger fish to fry two days ago.)

4. There is this crazy thing going on in the mommy-blog world about weight, started by a post called "False Advertising" in which a woman stated that she felt it would be unfair to her husband if she gained significant weight after marriage, and that it was fair for a man to expect his wife to maintain her weight. I think that Cecily said it best, but never having been seriously partnered or married, I don't really know. Calling this "false advertising" bothers me, though. Unless you get married under the assumption that your body and your partner's body are never going to change, I don't see how it's false advertising. The whole debate makes me feel a bit ill, actually. Now you can feel ill, too!

5. This piece by Alice at Finslippy about the trials and tribulations of gym-going is the funniest, most real thing that I've read in awhile, and explains (for those of you who are wondering) why I read "mommy blogs" at all. It's because their authors, in my experience, are wonderful writers and thoughtful people. I don't remember how I started reading the first one, but all the good ones seem to be interconnected. (There are a lot of bad ones out there, too, and I don't read those.) I think that mothers-of-young-children who blog may be particularly invested in their blogs (in order to find time to do it amidst the chaos of child-rearing) and in creating community through blogging, both of which appeal to me. (At first I wrote "mothers of young children who blog may be particularly invested in their blogs" but I realized that could mean something different from what I had intended. I'm sure there's a way to reword this so that it's clear we're talking about women who have young children and that's the women, not the young children, who blog, and that the blogs that the women are invested in are their own and not those of their young children, but I don't have time to do that now. So dashes it shall be.)

6. Here is a good daddy blog, for those of you who were afraid that I might be gender biased in the parenting blog department. Never!

Anyway, none of this is as exciting as what I usually write, but it should keep you occupied for a bit.

3.21.2006

What's wrong with the FDA?

In short: they approved this device, but not this. And read this if you really want to get angry.

"Plan B," which is the brand name for this kind of emergency contraception, is not the same thing as RU-486, also known as Mifepristone, which can be fatal if administered incorrectly. Note that it is considered contraception because it works before implantation, that is, before the pregnancy begins. I think implantation occurs sometime around the 16-32 cell stage of a zygote (it becomes an embryo after implantation), but I wouldn't swear by it.

If you know me in real life at all, and possibly if you only know me online, you know that I take mental health very seriously and would heartily support approval for any drug or device proven to be both safe and efficacious in treating depression, manic depression, OCD, or any other intractable affliction of the mind. It just seems clear that no reputable (that is, double-blind, controlled, not-financed-by-manufacturer) studies have been done that show that this device is any good at all, and the claim that someone is suffering so something must be done is specious if what you choose to do is implant an electrical device in his or her body. I feel like the makers of VNS are messing with the minds of people who are at their wit's end and feel that they have no other medical options left to them. This is a truly sucky place to be in, and I really, really don't want to minimize that, but the solution is not to offer unproven treatments.

I think that this is evidence enough that the national distrust of, ignorance of, and disregard of science is now negatively impacting our lives far beyond the public school classrooms where "intelligent design" (a.k.a. "theology") may be taught alongside science.

Grrrrr...

3.20.2006

"March Madness, Israeli style"--only one week left

Go here and tell BZ how you think the various parties will fare in the upcoming Israeli elections. I feel like I can't vote because I don't know enough about what's going on in Israeli politics. I know a little bit about Kadimah, Labor, and Likud, but that's about it. I feel sort of bad that I don't know more. And that guilt is keeping me from catching up in time for the election. It's like college reading--you get so far behind that you're too embarrassed/guilt-ridden to even try to catch up or make up for what you don't know. (At least, that was my experience of college reading.)

Note: BZ titled his post "March Madness, Israeli style" as if there were some other kind of March madness!

(Ha ha! Poking fun at my own general ignorance of this whole NCAA thing. Don't worry, I get it. A bunch of college basketball teams, many of them very talented, are playing games against each other in some organized fashion. I understand that they do this every March. I think that UConn is a good team. I don't even know how I know that, but that's really all I know.

My main association with NCAA brackets is when the boys in my high school class got busted for betting on games at school. They got busted because a 9th grader owed a senior a lot of money--or a lot of money for a 9th grader--and his mother found out. I guess that means he told his mother. Which means that his popularity ratings at school took a nosedive after that. The result of the bust? A stern lecture about how bnei and bnot Torah don't gamble, and the boys moved the NCAA bracket poster from the wall across from the boys' lockers to somewhere safer, like inside someone's locker. In case you were wondering, I don't think the bnot Torah were gambling in this particular case. Ah, high school. How little I miss thee!)

3.17.2006

New feature at abacaximamao!

Check it out on the right sidebar!

In honor of the 364th day of abacaximamao. Last March 17th I was on my way to Brazil; today I am sitting in my freezing office.

Note that this is not a comprehensive listing in that it only includes things that I would actually enjoy. It's also a work in progress. Feel free to add other things that are free or, at the most, $10, that you think I would enjoy.

3.15.2006

Welcome to the family!

Or, "Welcome, (to the) family!"

For those of you who read the posts on the day of publication and don't go back to check on later comments (for shame!), you might want to take a look here (2/3 of ALG's family chimes in about International Women's Day!) and here for some interesting comments.

I find the first series of comments particularly interesting, as they were posted exclusively by members of my family, and you can see certain family dynamics at play among our insightful conversation. This amuses me. It also amuses me that my brother thinks that women are inherently better teachers and men are inherently better CEOs, while I...don't.

P.S. Photo above is from 1984. Since I didn't ask permission to post, I partially blurred it to protect the identities of anyone who was over the age of 20 in 1984. Yes, yes, parents, aunts, uncles, and grandma--you all look just like you did in 1984, which is why I had to blur the photo to protect your identities!

Purim Time Down South*

I went down south for Purim, where I had a wonderful time with family and friends. I was very happy to ditch my winter coat and prance around in sandals and short sleeves. Even though it was warm out, though, it didn't really compare to my previous Purim, during which I took a short walk on the beach in Ipanema on the way back from megillah reading, which was at a Bnei Akiva minyan that met here. Everyone should spend one Purim of their lives in Rio de Janeiro. They really know how to party down there.

I have nothing more exciting, inflammatory, or scandalous to report at this time.

Happy Shushan Purim (and beware the Ides of March)!

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* With apologies to Leon and Otis Rene, as well as song popularizer Louis Armstrong. Also apologies to anyone who finds the original song blatantly racist and offensive. Online versions of the lyrics alternated between "mammy," "mama," and "mother," but the original lyrics most definitely seem to say "mammy."

3.12.2006

The Last of Her Generation: In Memoriam

My Great-Great Aunt Marian passed away this morning. She was 93 and she was ready to die, but I am still sad. She was an altogether wonderful person, but she also represented an entire generation of genteel, classy, funny, strong women to me. This is kind of disorganized and stream of consciousness at the moment, but that's how it is after someone dies. Memories come flooding back, not necessarily in chronological order.

I knew Aunt Marian, from a very young age, as "one of the aunts." She was the youngest of the three great-great aunts (my maternal grandmother's father's sisters, i.e., my great-grandfather's younger sisters) whom I saw every summer in Los Angeles: Aunt Sarah, Aunt Rose, and Aunt Marian. We usually saw them together, with Uncle Hy when he was still alive. We always had dinner at Aunt Rose's, I think, and sometimes they came to Uncle Boruch's for a barbecue.

The aunts were of a generation where one cared both about one's outer appearance (everything matching, fitting well, no shlepping or slouching around, proper shoes, proper jewelry, and always properly coiffed hair) and one's inner being. They had style, which turns out to be about so much more than having the right accessories. They were always put together, but they were never superficial or materialistic. There was something very dashing about the aunts--if you had told me that they had been movie stars in their youth, I would have believed you. I admired them. I think, in some ways, they represented something that I knew I would never be. They were so with it, and so nice, kind, and generous. Also, they could be wickedly funny, and it was always a delight to see the three of them interacting as any three sisters would. They were very different from each other, even though I often saw them as a "set."

Every summer when we went to Los Angeles, the aunts took me and my sister to a book store to buy a book for each of us. I think we went out to ice cream either before or after purchasing the books. I treasured these trips. I remember being about 7 and deciding to get the most for my money--I would buy the fattest book I could imagine reading. I figured since someone else was paying, I would get something that I could savor for as long as possible. I bought Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Little Princess, but I couldn't actually read through it for another year or two. I still have it somewhere. Thank you, Aunt Sarah, Aunt Rose, and Aunt Marian.

When I was 12, I was given a solo trip to Los Angeles as a bat mitzvah gift. I spent a week with my uncle and aunt (mother's brother and sister-in-law) in Los Angeles, and had an outing with my great-great aunts. Aunt Rose was driving, I think, one of those behemoths of a car that older people drive. She, Aunt Marian, and Aunt Sarah were discussing a friend of theirs when one of them said, "Can you believe that we've been friends for fifty years?" At the age of twelve, I was highly impressed with that. I still am. They seemed ancient to me for as long as I can remember knowing them, but I loved how their age never kept them from going about town, playing cards, reading, seeing movies, etc.

We went out during that trip, I think to brunch, and then they took me to a fancy department store to buy me a sweater. They decided that they would buy me a $50 sweater. However, the only thing available for $50 was a white t-shirt! So we left and they wrote me a check for $50 instead.

One of my earliest memories of these summer dinners at Aunt Rose's was of one of the aunts offering me a stick of mint gum. I think I was four or five years old. I chewed it and swallowed it. One of my parents asked me where my gum was and I said, "I swallowed it." They were appalled and said that you were supposed to chew gum and then spit it out. I thought that was the silliest thing I'd ever heard.

The other thing that I remember from those dinners at Aunt Rose's is that Aunt Rose didn't let us stack the plates at the table before clearing them off to the kitchen. There was an ongoing debate among others in the family as to the reason. Was it because she didn't want to have to wash the bottoms of the plates or because it was impolite to stack plates at the table and then carry them into the kitchen? I'm sure it was because of the etiquette situation, and not the extra washing. Aunt Rose always seemed a bit fussy that way. I think she minded the noise we made as children more than Aunt Marian did.

I remember one night Aunt Rose started telling us some stories from her youth. She told us that she had contracted scarlet fever, I think as a teenager, and that her heart had been weak ever since.

Aunt Marian's apartment complex had a swimming pool, and we always went swimming there at least once during these visits in Los Angeles. She would sit by the side of the pool and the kids, along with some adults at times, would play around in the pool. It was a great treat. I remember thinking she must be pretty fancy to live in a building that had a swimming pool.

Of the three aunts, Aunt Marian always seemed the most down-to-earth to me. Aunt Sarah was a little bit spacy (apparently this was always true, and not a consequence of her age), and Aunt Rose always seemed a little bit fussy. I remember Aunt Marian telling me and my mother, at an age before I really appreciated this, that her philosophy of life was only to worry about the things that she could change, and to let the rest go. I think that this is one reason she lived to be 93. She was also funny, although more in a wry way than a "ha ha" way.

She was ready to go when she went, and as my grandmother told me today, it's better for her that her life has drawn to a close, and she was lucky to die of old age and not of disease. It's better for her that her life has ended, but it's a sadder, emptier world for us. We will miss her and her sisters.

Aunt Sarah, Grandma Mollie (my mother's mother's mother), Aunt Marian, and Aunt Rose; 1930; Omaha, NE
(Aunt Sarah, Marian, and Rose were Grandma Mollie's sisters-in-law)


Aunt Rose holding my grandmother, Aunt Sarah, Aunt Marian, and Cel (Grandma Mollie's sister), plus an unidentified woman; 1928; Omaha, NE

3.11.2006

Quiz: Which American City Are You?

This was so popular the last time that I decided to do it again. I don't think this one is a great one, though--much worse than the last.

Can you believe that they didn't give water as an option for what one would most prefer to drink? The only things that I can imagine ever preferring to water are milk, soymilk, cranberry juice, hot chocolate, and white wine. I had to choose "double espresso," since I guess coffee is on that list as well, but really only if I need it to wake up or to slog through a lot of work. Otherwise, one of the others wins.

Anyway, the quiz was stupid but the results were not surprising!


San Francisco
Liberal and proud, you'll live your lifestyle however you choose in the face of all that would suppress you.

Take the quiz:
Which American City Are You?

3.10.2006

Fox News' Low-Cut Dress Proclivities and Republican "Family Values"

Chayyei Sarah rocks. She cites a great post from MediaMatters.org about Fox News and the revealing attire of some of its reporters and commenters. Actually, it's not about the revealing attire as much as it is about the strategic placement of titles on the bottoms of TV screens. I was about to leave a long comment, but decided that doing so would hijack and possibly create unintended debate in her comment section. So I'm posting here instead!

Chayyei Sarah notes that "then we wonder why teenage girls become anorexic." I agree that our external-beauty-obsessed culture and our preoccupation with every square inch of women's bodies is a huge part of the problem. However, I think that if there just a lot of women walking around scantily-clad, that would not be enough to cause anorexia, and I'm afraid of her readers getting that impression. In regard to Fox News, it's about the strategic placement of screen titles in order to not obscure women's scantily-clad bodies, and not about what the women were wearing, as inappropriate for television news as that may be. Knowing Chayyei Sarah as I do, especially her undergraduate credentials and feminist proclivities, but also not wanting to put words into her mouth, I just want to remind everyone else out there that anorexia is way more complicated than the clothing that women choose to wear.1 In hot climates where women wear little, I doubt that there is a higher incidence of anorexia than in colder climes. There was a substantial problem with anorexia when I studied in Israel for a year in an institution that required women to wear knee-covering skirts and elbow-reaching shirts, as well as clavicle-touching collars. I think that the reason that women's internal problems get turned into self-starvation (as opposed to other potentially destructive outlets, like drugs, alcohol, or, chas v'shalom, suicide) may be more because of the obsession with and constant sexualization of women's bodies, regardless of what they wear.

Whew! That was probably an overreaction to Sarah's sort of flip comment about anorexia, but what am I good for if not overreactions?

Contrary to what you might think, that wasn't what I came here to say.

What I wanted to say is that it sickens me that Fox News, which clearly caters to conservative, religious-right America, wouldn't think twice about highlighting a woman's scantily-clad body. Christian right "values" bother me on many levels, but one particularly disgusting thing about them, to me, is the focus on the "sanctity of human life" in respect to a fetus, but not the "sanctity of human life" in regard to sexual ethics. A fetus is deserving of sanctity but a grown woman is not? What gives? Even leaving the abortion issue aside, a political movement that espouses "family values" seems to divorce and adulterate an awful lot. I'm not saying that Democratic politicians don't also divorce and adulterate, but at least their entire political platform was never based on false family values. Just sayin'.

It would be so easy to point to these statistics right now, but I won't (or I will, but with a caveat:) because there are so many other explanations for these differences than human values. In regard to murder rates, there are always more murders in the summer than the winter and in warmer states than colder states. In places where people congregate outside and hang out on the streets more, there are more opportunities to kill. (I read this somewhere, not sure where, anyone know?) In regard to divorce rates, I'm fairly sure that lower levels of education and lower economic status in Red States lead to earlier marriages, which could easily correlate to more divorce. I can think of two ways that Republican "family values" might lead to higher divorce rates, though. If people are marrying earlier to avoid having pre-marital sex, then that might be correlated to higher divorce rates, although I don't know the stats on that. More significantly, though, if people are marrying to avoid having an "illegitimate child" that could also easily lead to a higher divorce rate, either immediately after the child is born or as soon as someone realizes that marrying in order to prevent "illegitimate children" is not a recipe for long-term marital happiness.

I think I'll stick to my values, thank you.


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1. From the NAMI website, for those of you too lazy to click:

What are the causes of anorexia nervosa?

Knowledge about the causes of anorexia nervosa is inconclusive, and the causes may be varied. In an attempt to understand and uncover the origins of eating disorders, scientists have studied the personalities, genetics, environments, and biochemistry of people with these illnesses. Certain personality traits common in persons with anorexia nervosa are low self-esteem, social isolation (which usually occurs after the behavior associated with anorexia nervosa begins), and perfectionism. These people tend to be good students and excellent athletes. It does seem clear (although this may not be recognized by the patient), that focusing on weight loss and food allows the person to ignore problems that are too painful or seem unresolvable.

Eating disorders also tend to run in families, with female relatives most often affected. A girl has a 10 to 20 times higher risk of developing anorexia nervosa, for instance, if she has a sibling with the disease. This finding suggests that genetic factors may predispose some people to eating disorders. Behavioral and environmental influences may also play a role. Stressful events are likely to increase the risk of eating disorders as well. In studies of the biochemical functions of people with eating disorders, scientists have found that the neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine are decreased in those with anorexia, which links them with patients suffering from depression. People with anorexia nervosa also tend to have higher than normal levels of cortisol (a brain hormone released in response to stress) and vasopressin (a brain chemical found to be abnormal in patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder).

3.08.2006

Happy International Women's Day!

Today is International Women's Day. When I first found out about this day (probably in college), I kind of thought it was somewhat silly, assuming that it was some new-fangled, post-Second Wave feminism thing. I liked it about as much as I liked Women's History Month, Black History Month, LGBT History Month, American Jewish History Month, National American Indian Heritage Month, etc., or, for that matter, National Book Month or Older Americans Month. That is, I recognize that it is sometimes necessary to highlight certain under-studied parts of our national history, heritage, or hobbies, but in an ideal world, all of these things would happen all the time. Any general study of American history or world history should include a fully-integrated account of the lives, accomplishments, trials, and tribulations of women and men, black people, white people, gay people, straight people, transgendered people, Native Americans, colonizers, and anyone else who ever did anything deemed important. (What do we deem important? Up for discussion. Preferably over tea and scones.)

These specially-designated months are only good for highlighting how far we still have to go towards a more inclusive view of history, culture, and literature. It's like my mother's oft-expressed anti-Mother's Day sentiment: We do we set aside one day a year to be nice to our mothers and to tell them how much we appreciate them? Why don't we do that every day? If we treated our mothers as we should every day of the year, there would be no need for Mother's Day.

I wrote, "When I first found out about this day (probably in college), I kind of thought it was somewhat silly" implying that I now have a different opinion. Indeed, I do! Inetnerational Women's Day is not some new-fangled, post-Second Wave feminism thing, and now I like it more. It was first established in 1909 by my good friends at the Socialist Party of America. Here is a short history of the origins of International Women's Day. (I wrote my senior thesis about female college students' activism before and during World War I, so I became quite familiar with the Socialist Party of America and its undergraduate affiliates. I was happy to see them referenced.) In general, I have a soft place in my heart for anything having to do with American women between 1850 and 1950, as that was the focus of my undergraduate studies.

Things were quite different for American women in 1909, and we often forget that. I want you all to reflect for a moment--or longer!--on what life what like before the following advances were made. (Some parts of the table are coming out funny and I can't deal with going into the HTML and fixing it now. Sorry!) I've highlighted the ones that I found particularly astonishing either because I can't believe things were ever this bad or because I can't believe it took until 19XX to fix it.

1916

Margaret Sanger tests the validity of New York’s anti-contraception law by establishing a clinic in Brooklyn. Although the clinic is shut down 10 days later and Sanger is arrested, she eventually wins support through the courts and opens another clinic in New York City in 1923. The most well-known of birth control advocates, she is one of hundreds arrested over a 40-year period for working to establish women’s right to control their own bodies.

1918

New York v. Sanger, 222 NY 192, 118 N.E. 637 (Court of Appeals 1917), National Archives, Records of the U.S. Supreme Court, RG 267 (MSDME-CDS C 15:298). Margaret Sanger wins her suit in New York to allow doctors to advise their married patients about birth control for health purposes.

1919

The federal woman suffrage amendment, originally written by Susan B. Anthony and introduced in Congress in 1878, is passed by the House of Representatives and the Senate. It is then sent to the states for ratification.

1920

The Women's Bureau of the Department of Labor is formed to collect information about women in the workforce and safeguard good working conditions for women.

1920

The Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is ratified and signed into law by Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby. It declares: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” (All state ratification dates are here.)

1923

National Woman’s Party first proposes Constitutional Equal Rights Amendment: “Men and women shall have equal rights throughout the United States and in every place subject to its jurisdiction. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”

1932

The National Recovery Act forbids more than one family member from holding a government job, resulting in many women losing their jobs.

1936

The federal law prohibiting the dissemination of contraceptive information through the mail is modified and birth control information is no longer classified as obscene. Throughout the 1940s and 50s, birth control advocates are engaged in numerous legal suits.

1936

United States v. One Package of Japanese Pessaries, 13 F. Supp.334 (E.D.N.Y 1936) aff’d 86 F 2d 737 (2nd Cir. 1936), won judicial approval of medicinal use of birth control.

1937

The U.S. Supreme Court upholds Washington state’s minimum wage laws for women.

1938

The Fair Labor Standards Act establishes minimum wage without regard to sex.

1947

Fay v. New York, 332 U.S. 261 (1947), the U.S. Supreme Court says women are equally qualified with men to serve on juries but are granted an exemption and may serve or not as individual women choose.

1960

The Food and Drug Administration approves birth control pills.

1961

President John Kennedy establishes the President's Commission on the Status of Women and appoints Eleanor Roosevelt as chairwoman. The report issued by the Commission in 1963 documents substantial discrimination against women in the workplace and makes specific recommendations for improvement, including fair hiring practices, paid maternity leave, and affordable child care.

1963

Betty Friedan publishes her highly influential book The Feminine Mystique, which describes the dissatisfaction felt by middle-class American housewives with the narrow role imposed on them by society. The book becomes a best-seller and galvanizes the modern women's rights movement.

1963

The Equal Pay Act is passed by Congress, promising equitable wages for the same work, regardless of the race, color, religion, national origin or sex of the worker. Between June 1964 and Jan. 1971, back wages totaling more than $26 million were paid to 71,000 women.

1964

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act bars discrimination in employment on the basis of race, sex, religion, or national origin. At the same time it establishes the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to investigate complaints and impose penalties.

1965

Weeks v. Southern Bell, 408 F. 2d. 228 (5th Cir. 1969), marks a major triumph in the fight against restrictive labor laws and company regulations on the hours and conditions of women's work, opening many previously male-only jobs to women.

1965

Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479 (1965), the Supreme Court overturns one of the remaining last state laws prohibiting the prescription or use of contraceptives by married couples.

1966

The National Organization for Women (NOW) is founded by a group of feminists including Betty Friedan. The largest women's rights group in the U.S., NOW seeks to end sexual discrimination, especially in the workplace, by means of legislative lobbying, litigation, and public demonstrations.

1967

Executive Order 11375 expands President Lyndon Johnson's affirmative action policy of 1965 to cover discrimination based on gender. As a result, federal agencies and contractors must take active measures to ensure that women as well as minorities enjoy the same educational and employment opportunities as white males.

1968

The EEOC rules that sex-segregated help wanted ads in newspapers are illegal. This ruling is upheld in 1973 by the Supreme Court, opening the way for women to apply for higher-paying jobs hitherto open only to men.

1968

Executive Order 11246 prohibits sex discrimination by government contractors and requires affirmative action plans for hiring women.

1969

In Bowe v. Colgate-Palmolive Company, 416 F. 2d 711 (7th Cir.1969), the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals rules that women meeting the physical requirements can work in many jobs that had been for men only.

1970

In Schultz v. Wheaton Glass Co., a U.S. Court of Appeals rules that jobs held by men and women need to be "substantially equal" but not "identical" to fall under the protection of the Equal Pay Act. An employer cannot, for example, change the job titles of women workers in order to pay them less than men.

1971

Phillips v. Martin Marietta Corporation, 400 U.S. 542 (1971): The U.S. Supreme Court outlaws the practice of private employers refusing to hire women with pre-school-age children.

1971

Reed v. Reed, 404 U.S. 71 (1971): The U.S. Supreme Court holds unconstitutional a state law (Idaho) establishing automatic preference for males as administrators of wills. This is the first time the court strikes down a law treating men and women differently. The Court finally declares women as “persons,” but uses a “reasonableness” test rather than making sex a “suspect classification,” analogous to race, under the Fourteenth Amendment.

1972

The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) is passed by Congress and sent to the states for ratification. Originally drafted by Alice Paul in 1923, the amendment reads: "Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex." The amendment died in 1982 when it failed to achieve ratification by a minimum of 38 states.

1972

Title IX of the Education Amendments bans sex discrimination in schools that receive any federal funding. It states: "No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving federal financial assistance." As a result of Title IX, the enrollment of women in athletics programs and professional schools increases dramatically.

1972

In Eisenstadt v. Baird, 405 U.S. 438 (1972), the Supreme Court rules that the right to privacy encompasses an unmarried person's right to use contraceptives.

1973

Pittsburgh Press v. Pittsburgh Commission on Human Relations, 413 U.S. 376 (1973): The U.S. Supreme Court bans sex-segregated “help wanted” advertising as a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as amended.

1973

Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973) and Doe v. Bolton, 410 U.S. 179 (1973): The U.S. Supreme Court declares that the Constitution protects women’s right to terminate an early pregnancy, thus making abortion legal in the U.S. and overriding the anti-abortion laws of many states.

1974

Housing discrimination on the basis of sex and credit discrimination against women are outlawed by Congress.

1974

Corning Glass Works v. Brennan (1974), U.S. Supreme Court ruled that employers cannot justify paying women lower wages because that is what they traditionally received under the "going market rate." A wage differential occurring "simply because men would not work at the low rates paid women" was unacceptable.

1974

Cleveland Board of Education v. LaFleur, 414 U.S. 632 (1974), determines it is illegal to force pregnant women to take maternity leave on the assumption they are incapable of working in their physical condition.

1974

The Women’s Educational Equity Act, drafted by Arlene Horowitz and introduced by Representative Patsy Mink (D-HI), funds the development of nonsexist teaching materials and model programs that encourage full educational opportunities for girls and women.

1975

Taylor v. Louisiana, 419 U.S. 522 (1975), denies states the right to exclude women from juries.

1976

General Elec. Co v. Gilbert, 429 U. S. 125 (1976), the Supreme Court upholds women’s right to unemployment benefits during the last three months of pregnancy.

1976

Craig v. Boren, 429 U.S. 190 (1976): The U.S. Supreme Court declares unconstitutional a state law permitting 18 to 20-year-old females to drink beer while denying the rights to men of the same age. The Court establishes new set of standards for reviewing laws that treat men and women differently—an “intermediate” test stricter than the “reasonableness” test for constitutionality in sex discrimination cases.

1976

Nebraska becomes the first state to abolish the marital rape exemption.

1977

Oregon becomes the first state to enact mandatory arrest in domestic violence cases

1978

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act bans employment discrimination against pregnant women.

1981

Kirchberg v. Feenstra, 450 U.S. 455, 459-60 (1981), overturns state laws designating a husband “head and master” with unilateral control of property owned jointly with his wife.

1984

In Roberts v. U.S. Jaycees, 468 U.S. 609 (1984), sex discrimination in membership policies of organizations, such as the Jaycees, is forbidden by the Supreme Court, opening many previously all-male organizations (Jaycees, Kiwanis, Rotary, Lions) to women.

1984

The state of Mississippi belatedly ratifies the 19th Amendment, out of embarrassment. Women could legally vote in Mississippi starting in 1920, with the national ratification of the 19th amendment. However, Mississippi was one of two states that did not allow women to vote in the November 1920 elections, although this action was illegal.

1984

Hishon v. King and Spaulding, 467 U.S. 69 (1984): The U.S. Supreme Court rules that law firms may not discriminate on the basis of sex in promoting lawyers to partnership positions.

1986

In Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson, 477 U.S. 57 (1986), the U.S. Supreme Court held that a hostile or abusive work environment can prove discrimination based on sex.

1992

According to the Current Population Survey, the female-to-male earnings ratio at the median for year-round, full-time workers was 77 percent in 2002, an increase of 5 percentage points since 1999. (See this for details. In general this is a very interesting study if you’re curious about the male-female wage gap that still exists in the US today.)

1993

The Family and Medical Leave Act goes into effect.

1994

The Violence Against Women Act funds services for victims of rape and domestic violence, allows women to seek civil rights remedies for gender-related crimes, and provides training to increase police and court officials’ sensitivity and a national 24-hour hotline for battered women.

1995

Beijing Declaration at the World Conference on Women declares "Women’s rights are human rights." The Platform for Action designed at the conference contains dozens of references to human rights pertaining to women.

2006

US Census Bureau reports that the number of women-owned businesses grew 20 percent between 1997 and 2002, twice the national average for all businesses. Women owned nearly 30 percent of nonfarm businesses in the United States in 2002. While 14 percent of women-owned firms employed more than 7.1 million people, the vast majority of businesses owned by women (nearly 5.6 million) had no employees.


I don't have time to find links for these things now (or anytime soon), but if you want to know more, buy yourself a good book on the subject or go forth and Google.

When I was working at the Schlesinger Library Archives (far and away the best student job I had), one of the things that I did was photocopy archival manuscripts for patrons. I photocopied some very interesting old EEOC documents, including one with a case of a schoolteacher in Ohio who was fired when she became pregnant. I don't remember exactly, but I think they fired her very early in the pregnancy, before she was even showing, on the grounds that it was "unseemly" to teach children while pregnant. I think it was in the early 1970s, and I remember being shocked that it was still legal to treat women this way so recently. I guess firing women for being pregnant was legal until 1974 (Cleveland Board of Education v. LaFleur--maybe the EEOC case that I photocopied was LaFleur) or 1978, when the Pregnancy Discrimination Act was passed.

I think about abortion and a woman's right to choose to save her life over the life of her unborn fetus, but I don't often think of a time when contraception was illegal for married couples. I can't even begin to imagine what it must have been like to live in such a time, to be pregnant for so many years, and, depending on the setting, often to lose multiple children in infancy. I actually realized some of this a few years ago, when I saw the PBS special on the pill. It still feels surprising to me, though.

I also have to admit that I am sad that I could not find anything noteworthy between 1995 and 2006. Perhaps I didn't look hard enough--let me know if you're aware of something big that I missed. Unfortunately, I don't think this lack of recent advances is evidence that there is no work left to be done. For example:

2005

In Tennessee, it's not a crime for a husband to force his wife to have sex against her will unless he uses a weapon, causes her serious bodily injury, or they are separated or divorcing. (See this.)

2006

Although women make up almost half of America's labor force, still only two Fortune 500 companies have women CEOs or presidents, and 90 of those 500 companies don't have any women corporate officers.

2006

There are 14 female senators in that 100-person body (14%). There are 70 female representatives in the 435-person House of Representatives (16%).


Happy International Women's Day!