Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

We’ve come a long way baby, but there’s still work to be done

Frances F Williams

Congratulations to the women elected to serve as councilors for the cities of Las Cruces and Mesilla. And thanks to the voters who made this impossible dream possible.

American women have fought for equality and justice, beginning with the 19th-century suffragette movement, which demanded a woman’s right to vote. Women who wanted to vote were arrested and imprisoned. Women went on hunger strikes, rallies, parades, protests and marches. Those who attended these events were despised, ridiculed and harassed as they continued their fight for equality. Finally, in 1920, the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution was ratified, giving women the right to vote. But the fight wasn’t over yet.

Women continued to face discrimination in areas affecting their daily lives, ie employment, credit, housing, education and health care to name a few. The fight to pass the 34th Amendment to the Constitution on equal rights for women failed by three votes.

In 1974, Governor David Cargo of New Mexico established the Commission for the Status of Women as a Valentine’s Day gift. New Mexico passed the Equal Rights Amendment, which struck down laws that discriminated against both men and women. A group of women came to New Mexico in a pink bus from the Church of Christ in Oklahoma to persuade the New Mexico Legislature to overthrow the ERA. While some of our New Mexico legislature supported it, Governor Bruce King vetoed it. Laws were enacted to eliminate discrimination against women. And while progress has been made, much remains to be done.

There are still prejudices about putting women in higher-paying and managerial positions. Manual jobs, which tend to pay more than administrative jobs, should be open to women as apprentices and interns, and these jobs should be welcoming environments. Rosie the Riveter did it in World War II. While this isn’t a perfect world, we can make it better, not just for women, but open to anyone who aspires to be all they can be. Barriers need to be broken down in education and in the voting booths. Yes, we still have a long way to go, but we’re getting there. Let’s move on.

Frances F. Williams has served as Commissioner of the Commission on the Status of Women, Director of Equal Opportunity in the Army at White Sands Missile Range, United Nations delegate to the International Women’s Annual Conferences in the United States, Mexico and China, and was recognized as an Outstanding Woman of New Mexico Received the Governor’s Award for Public Service and the Secretary of the Army’s Meritorious Award for her work in equal employment.

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