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Still chasing gender equality

Never has celebrating Women’s History Month seemed more appropriate than it does right now, mid-March, with all that’s going on locally and across the nation.

Firstly, we’re pleased to point out, the Millerton village elections boasted a full and exclusive slate of female candidates — the first time anyone can remember that being the case.

Running for office this year were Debbie Middlebrook, a Democrat with both Democratic and Republican support seeking the mayor’s office; and seeking two trustee positions were Christine Bates, a member of No Official Party (NOP) who ran with Democratic support; Jenn Najdek, an NOP candidate who ran on the Republican ticket; and Madeleine Bambery, a Democrat who ran on that party’s ticket. 

That’s it. There were four candidates vying for three seats. Officially, it should be pointed out, Trustee Stephen Waite was nominated at the Republican caucus for re-election in a show of support for the work done during his tenure. But Waite had already announced he would not return to office, thereby taking himself out of the running.

Though the winners were not known as of this week’s Tuesday press deadline, we do know that all of the winners were women, and that’s a great thing in today’s world.

It would, in fact, make any suffragette happy. It wasn’t that long ago, back on Aug. 26, 1920, that the 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote. And it was a hard fight to get there. It took lawmakers — male lawmakers — decades to grant what is an inherent right to all women, putting in their hands the power to elect lawmakers and vote on issues important to everyone. The suffrage movement was painstaking, and today it can easily be forgotten that it was even necessary — but it’s important we remember.

Even though the passage of the 19th Amendment is now behind us, there’s still more work to be done. Equal pay for equal work is a rallying cry still heard in Washington today. Gender discrimination in the workplace still exists, with women earning roughly 77 percent of what men earn for the same work, according to some reporters. 

Does it even need arguing that all people, regardless of sex, should be treated equally? Who, today, doesn’t believe that until such standards are met, life is grossly unfair? Maybe those not affected do — but we like to think that most people are more enlightened than that, and that most people are willing to join, arm-in-arm, in the fight for equality.

The Equal Pay Act (EPA) of 1963 was signed into law by President John F. Kennedy as part of his New Frontier Program. 

Then, in 2005, Sen. Hillary Clinton introduced the Paycheck Fairness Act to amend the EPA and make it stronger, as did her counterpart, Rep. Rosa DeLauro, in the House of Representatives.

In January, 2009, President Barack Obama signed into law the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, overturning a Supreme Court ruling regarding the statute of limitations for people filing sex discrimination cases. The bill states that every unequal paycheck between genders is a new violation of the law. It came nearly 45 years after the EPA was signed.

Progress has been slow — proof positive that we must never forget those who came before us and those who will follow. Everyone has a mother. Many have wives, sisters and daughters. How can anyone support laws that prevent those they love from being treated fairly? 

Economic inequality is a reflection of the struggles women still face today — along with others who are not in the majority. Don’t let it remain so. Do your part to fight against such wrongs and promote justice for all, regardless of sex, origin, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity or political persuasion. It isn’t the norm yet, but together we can work to change that.