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What does Fourth of July mean to women?

ERA Virginia

In this Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020, photo, Equal Rights Amendment supporters demonstrate outside Virginia State Capitol in Richmond, Va. Virginia moved a step closer to ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment on Tuesday, Jan. 1,4 2020, even as the measure’s future nationally remains in doubt. A House committee approved a resolution to ratify the gender equality measure, which advocates hope will become the next amendment to the U.S. Constitution. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)

The July 4th celebration began to commemorate the Declaration of Independence passed by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776.

“When in the Course of human Events, it becomes necessary for People to dissolve the Political Bands …WE hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness – That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, …”

But the “Consent of the Governed” does not exist when women, who are 51% of the population, make up only 24% of the Senate and 27% of the House. We cannot consent to creation of laws in which we have no equal voice.

One of many objections to King George was that, “He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public Good.” The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was first introduced into Congress in 1923, passed 49 years later in 1972, and was ratified by the 38th state in 2020. The polls show that 80% of Americans wrongfully think the ERA has been passed. Moreover, 91% of American people support the ERA but still the law is not published though it is “most wholesome and necessary for the public Good.”

The First Women’s Rights Convention in 1848 produced a Declaration of Sentiments modeled on the Declaration of Independence.

“When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one portion of the family of man to assume among the people of the earth a position different from that which they have hitherto occupied, but one to which the laws of nature and nature’s God entitle them, …We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal; …”

The declaration outlined the repeated injuries and usurpations on the part of men as the founders had done against King George: inability to vote; no consent to the laws; depriving women of rights, property, children, education, and wages; making her civilly dead; mandating she obey the husband; allowing the husband to administer punishment; and only capable of subordinate roles in the church. Many of those problems persist today.

Frederick Douglass spoke at the Women’s Rights Convention. Four years later, he was asked to give a presentation on July 4th to the Ladies’ Anti-Slavery Society. He said, “What to the Slave is the 4thof July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim.” As Douglass pointed out, for him and other people of African descent, the Fourth of July is a day to mourn not rejoice. To ask him to celebrate would be to mock him because he did not have independence or freedom.

Likewise, how can women celebrate independence when we don’t have it? We can honor the founders but still admit they made mistakes. They knew they would so put Article V in the Constitution to amend it. The mistake of excluding women was rectified on January 27, 2020, when the requirements of Article V were met by the state of Virginia. But still the national archivist refuses to publish the 28th amendment.

Every day women do not have constitutional equality, every female in the U.S. is harmed. Young girls cannot be protected from female genital mutilation. Young women are trafficked into sex slavery and blamed for their own victimization. Mothers are charged for having a miscarriage. Working women lose $956 billion a year due to the pay gap. Older women are forced to work into their 70s and 80s to survive. King George did no less.

In 1917, women asked, “Mr. President, How Long Must Women Wait for Liberty?” 104 years and counting. As Douglass said, so long as inequality persists, “America is false to the past, false to the present, and solemnly binds herself to be false to the future.”

Dianne Post is an attorney and facilitator for Arizona Justice Alliance.

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