Plenary III: Woman of Action Awards and Political Roundtable

Woman of Action Awards

Allendra Letsome: [The following is not Letsome’s exact words, it’s Estes’ bio from the NOW site, but it’s something like what Letsome did say] Carroll Estes, the outgoing chair of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, is an esteemed researcher, teacher, mentor and leader in the study of aging policy in the U.S. Dr. Estes was an early advocate for crediting women's unpaid care work under Social Security and has worked with NOW and other women's organizations to develop progressive proposals to strengthen retirement security.

She is a professor emerita of sociology at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and the founding and former director of the UCSF Institute for Health and Aging. Her academic and professional credits are many: former chair of the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, School of Nursing at UCSF; a member of the Institute of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences; and past president of the Gerontological Society of America and the American Society on Aging, among others. She has served as consultant to the Commissioner of Social Security and the Senate and House committees on aging for more than two decades.

Dr. Estes has written more than 200 scientific articles and book chapters and co-edited or authored numerous books on aging, including The Long Term Care Crisis. A frequent public speaker and recipient of many prestigious awards, Dr. Estes was named by the League of Women voters as A Woman Who Could Be President.

Caroll Estes: Thank you. What an honor. Having grown up in the 1960s with the opportunity of being in the early movement and founding of NOW, this is an amazing moment for me.

My mother, Maggie Kuhn, and Tisch Summers are three women who greatly impacted my life. I never had a woman professor. My mom was 12 years old when women got the right to vote. She read The Feminine Mystique and wrote novels because she could, but my dad told her not to after she started becoming successful, so she stopped. She showed me that I could write books, but male dominance controls all. I bereave that her talent was quashed.

Later I worked with Friedan on aging.

Maggie Kuhn understood age discrimination and social justice, that there are links between all the isms and wars on middle class. She never engaged in self-censorship or self-doubts. She was courageous, she called out society. Do your homework! Get to root of problem! Speak your mind, even when your voice shakes! Everything is connected.

Tisch Summers was also in NOW and involved in the fight against ageism. She always said, “Don’t agonize, organize.”

We face a crisis. Women give care until they die, they do work with little or no pay at a great physical and psychological cost. The War on Women is also against older women, since it’s against Social Security and Medicaid. Women face more healthcare problems, and since they are more dependent on national state, they’re more vulnerable. The degree of dependency increases with age and singlehood (widow, divorcee, etc.).

NOW is the leading light against the War on Women. We all must work together. Lots of people are here with you. We’ll rise together with other organizations like OWL, Gray Panthers, IWPR, NWLC, etc. We will be one billion rising.

I am doing something outrageous every day.

I dedicate this to my daughter and granddaughter.

Letsome: [The following is not Letsome’s exact words, it’s Sandler’s bio from the NOW site, but it’s something like what Letsome did say] Lifelong gender equity activist Dr. Bernice R. "Bunny” Sandler is known as the "godmother of Title IX" for the major role she played in helping pass the landmark law that prohibits sex discrimination in educational institutions that receive federal funds. A true pioneer, Dr. Sandler filed sex discrimination complaints against more than 250 universities when there were no laws prohibiting sex discrimination in education. In 1970, she was the first person to testify before Congress about sex discrimination in education and worked with Rep. Edith Green, prime sponsor of Title IX, to organize hearings that documented sex discrimination in employment and education.

Dr. Sandler wrote the first-ever reports on campus sexual harassment, gang rape, campus peer harassment, and the "chilly climate" on campus for women, especially Latinas and African American women. She has given thousands of presentations, written several important guide books and more than 100 articles, and served as an expert witness in discrimination and sexual harassment cases.

Educated at Brooklyn College, the College of the City of New York and the University of Maryland, Dr. Sandler holds multiple degrees in psychology and counseling. Now a senior scholar at the Women's Research and Education Institute in Washington, D.C., she has served on more than 30 boards and received multiple honorary doctorates in addition to numerous other awards.

Bunny Sandler: Thank you for this award. It belongs to women who gathered data on their campuses.

Title IX is the most important law since the 19th Amendment. None of us knew it at the time, we thought it meant higher salaries on campus and more games for girls on Field Day. It began in 1969. I finished my PhD and I wasn’t considered for the openings at my university, so I asked why and was told that I come on too strong for a woman. I thought I couldn’t have a career and was really upset about it at first, but my husband told me, “Men are all strong so it’s not you, it’s sex discrimination.” Sex discrimination was a new word, the word sexism only came after Title IX. There were lots of words like that only came around in mid-1970s, so it was hard to conceptualize them earlier.

In the 1960s in Virginia, 21,000 women were rejected from state college, and zero men were. I wonder if cure for cancer was in those 21,000. Back then there were no women were hired and especially not tenured. One woman didn’t get an office until she won the Nobel.

I thought it would take a year to enforce Title IX. Now I’m inspired by everyone here who’s working against sexism. I know that Title IX isn’t finished yet. There’s more to do because it’s not just ending sex discrimination, it’s also a social revolution. It’ll be just as important as the Industrial Revolution because it’ll mean a change in the relationship between the genders. This is only first steps of Title IX’s journey.

Someone asked how Title IX impacts my grandchildren, and I said that they all have friends of the opposite sex, which wasn’t possible when I was a kid. This is new, these friendships is a big Title IX achievement and totally unexpected. It’s helping young people respect and befriend each other. Schools and the nation and the world will never be the same.

Political Roundtable

Bonnie Grabenhofer: Carol Moseley Braun was supposed to be here today but she couldn’t come. When she ran for Senate in 1992 she ran on a shoestring and we did what we could to campaign anyway. We were in a white suburb and a guy asked me if I was Carol Moseley Braun, because there wasn’t enough money for us to get TV spots, nobody even knew what she looked like. So I’m happy to b here.

We’ve suffered 2012 losses so Republicans have been hurting women. VAWA used to have broad bipartisan support and now the GOP wants to cut stuff from it. There’s been lots of anti-abortion stuff going on, cutting Planned Parenthood funding and Medicaid, exempting religious medical centers from providing birth control, and only men testifying about birth control. We need more women to run for office.

Sarah Reece: It’s an honor to be here with these distinguished women. I grew up and learned organizing in Kentucky with NOW. The Gay and Lesbian Task Force is the oldest organization working for rights from the ground up, to pass pro-LGBT legislation. This year there were four ballot measures. In four states we’ll try to pass marriage, defend a constitutional ban, and affirm marriage in states where it’s already been passed.

In Maryland they put marriage on the ballot for repeal. We want to make it available by January, save it from being repealed. We lost 75% of LGBT ballot measures at first, so we changed our methodology and started winning at local levels. We lost in California because there wasn’t enough voter support, so four state campaigns that are going on now are trying to have conversations with people who aren’t on board with the LGBT advocacy cause yet.

In Minnesota they’ve referred an anti-marriage measure to the ballot, but advocates there are working hard. We want to have one million conversations and so far we’ve done 250,000. Maine has been doing petitions, but we lost marriage there so now they’re working on having conversations, so far they’ve had 100,000.

It’s phenomenal. We need volunteers and money. In November there will be four LGBT measures on the ballot, it’s never been done before, and they’re all polling at 50% or more. The bad news is that we’re still far behind in volunteering.

Linda Hallman: I’m the CEO of AAUW. This conference reminds me of a NOW ad that said “womanpower is much too good to waste.” AAUW and its Action Fund harness womanpower nationwide. With everything going on now we have to wonder, is this year 2012 or 1952? There have been attacks on all sides, which is why AAUW wants millennial women to vote. We want to change the face of elections.

It’s my vote, I will be heard is the name of the AAUW Action Fund campaign. It’s great because you can use different inflections while saying it. It’s an education and mobilization effort. We’re working with branches and members to hold meetings, forums, and debates, especially on campuses. We’re telling people what’s at stake. It’s going to take all of us to get women, especially millennial women, out to vote. Younger voters are our target because they’re the best opportunity for overall change through future years. We’re talking about 50 million voters with lots of NOW and AAUW priorities without a voting pattern. We have to engage them to strengthen them.

We need women to stand up and say it’s enough and vote for candidates. Post campaign posters everywhere you can, we’ll send them to you. With your help we won’t waste womanpower. Get out the vote!

Ellie Smeal: AAUW and FMF and NOW are all in it together. Go on the HERvotes site, it has 12 issues at risk.

We’re fighting for the right to vote again. The government is targeting young people, older women, and people of color and trying to keep them away from the polls. Now you need government-issued identification and birth certificates and marriage licenses etc., and they’re bragging about how great these restrictions are, this voter suppression.

They want to privatize Social Security, cut equal pay, eliminate Medicare, block Medicaid, and defund Planned Parenthood. The Ryan Budget wanted this too. Attacks on Title IX have been ruthless historically, and now we’re fighting sex-segregated public school academic classes. Roe v. Wade is also on the line because the Supreme Court could be stacking. Romney thinks highly of Bork, who we’ve fought already, Romney wants to put him in the Supreme Court. Bork would be another Scalia. They’re trying to roll back Griswold v. Connecticut now.

If we want the Affordable Care Act, we have to save it. It mandates maternity care, well woman checkups (mammograms etc.), and no-copay birth control. It puts Title IX into healthcare, makes it so that there’s no health sex discrimination. It’s the biggest legislative advancement for women since Title IX. It covers 95% of US with healthcare.

Women’s gains from 40 years ago are at stake. They’ve told us what they want to do and we have to stop them by voting, show them how angry we really are. We need the ERA so we can never have a Scalia who tells us we’re not protected under the Constitution.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney: Thank you. It’s wonderful to have an organization like NOW that’s so dedicated. When I ran for office at first, no one thought I could win except for NOW, and I won’t forget it. The New York Times said that they wasted their time by putting their effort into me. NOW is the NRA of the women’s movement because it’s in every neighborhood across the country.

On the steps of the Supreme Court, when we heard that the health bill went through, we all jumped up for joy because it was such a long fight. It was like the fight for Title IX in sports. It helps treat women like being female is not a preexisting condition. We couldn’t pass Roe v. Wade today, it’s so important that Kagan and Sotomayor were appointed.

This is a year of advancement for women. We have women like Debbie Wasserman Schultz and DOMA was announced unconstitutional. I don’t know why the War on Women is happening now, but it’s the worst ever seen. Pundits are annoyed when we call it the War on Women, but all casualties are women.

I’m used to assaults on choice but not on birth control access, and yet they tried to roll it back and there weren’t even any women on the congressional panel. I asked where the women were, and still they refused to let Fluke speak. There have been 11 state ballot initiatives against birth control. It was a victory so long ago I didn’t know it was an issue anymore.

The first bill I worked on was VAWA, and now it’s not reauthorized in the 21st century. The PFA didn’t pass the Senate in the 21st century. They tried to pull funding from Planned Parenthood. I don’t know why it’s happening now, but have NOW and Ellie Smeal to work to turn it around.

I introduce the ERA yearly. Founding feminists wanted it. Scalia has said women aren’t in constitution (but he said corporations are people). I think that’s battle cry, we have to get into the constitution! We don’t realize our power. We have an upcoming election, so if you don’t vote for anti-ERA candidates, then it can get passed.

Five years after a woman’s first foray into the workforce, the disparity grows. Women have lost ground except in healthcare and education. They’re stuck making 77 cents to the man’s dollar, although it has improved. There are so many things to change, but we have to hold onto our victories because they’re trying to roll them back. The ERA can stop rollbacks and let us work for change. Instead of having many issues, let’s just say that we want equality. I’ve fought for rights, now I need to hold onto my victories, which wouldn’t be necessary if we have the ERA. We need to get out there and take care of business. Call your senators and congresspeople and get them onto the ERA, organize against them if necessary. We don’t want to fight for it for 79 years like we did for the 19th Amendment. We need to finish this chapter. We have great leaders here. If we want equal rights, we have to go out and demand them.