Editorial: Strides for women, and everyone, in Worcester

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Women in Worcester have been inspiring each other, and inspiring change, for decades.

Another chance to do that comes this Friday afternoon, Aug. 26, when Women’s Equality Day will be celebrated behind City Hall.

Edward M. Augustus Jr.

Courtesy NAMI Mass

Edward M. Augustus Jr.

The program starts at 12:15 and will feature remarks by City Manager Edward M. Augustus Jr. and City Councilor-at-Large Kate Toomey. It will also be a chance to mingle with representatives of various local groups involved in women’s issues, and consider where women stand now with respect to the many-faceted topic of equality.

One of those facets, women’s suffrage, was settled enough years ago to

have slipped into the slumbers of history. But to our ancestors, the political and moral struggle was very controversial.

Kate Toomey

Courtesy city of Worcester

Toomey

Women have been guaranteed the right to vote in this country since the 19th Amendment took effect Aug. 26, 1920. Since 1971, Women’s Equality Day has been a national observance on Aug. 26 marking the constitutional amendment.

Considering most modern women take voting as much for granted as they take it to heart — and that this year’s Election Day has a good chance to put a female behind the Oval Office’s powerful desk — 96 years seems a rather short period for women to have had full legal access to the polls. But that’s only as long as it’s been in Massachusetts and most other states.

Worcester pushed the fight forward in 1850.

That the first National Woman’s Rights Convention was held here is still a huge point of pride for the city. The two-day gathering, not one for wallflowers, featured appearances and fiery speeches by prominent men and women, including ex-slave Frederick Douglass and West Brookfield’s Lucy Stone.

The convention in our city attracted the attention — and derision — of many. And it stirred the national imagination.

Such gatherings helped set the stage for the slow turn toward racial and gender equality that was all but inevitable for a young nation founded on the ardent idea of freedom.

Those important slow turns continue.

Participants at Friday’s short program will celebrate the state’s newly approved pay equity law, the first of its kind in the country, and a strong step for workers that we applaud.

The law “has a number of provisions that will provide new tools to help close the wage gap,” according to Harvard University’s Virginia Budson, Computerworld reports. Among them are that employers will no longer be able to ask interviewees about previous salaries, and employees will be able to discuss their pay with other workers without fear of reprisal.

The local Women’s Equality Day event is sponsored by the Worcester Women’s History Project, the YWCA, Abby’s House, the League of Women Voters, the United Way of Central Massachusetts’ Women’s Initiative, and by the City of Worcester Cultural Coalition.

City Hall

Worcester Sun

City Hall

If you’re near the Common about lunchtime Friday, try to stop by. Stop to consider the work and the wisdom by many people over the years that have brought American women where they are. Despite problems such as a stubborn wage gap compared with men, today’s women generally enjoy a richness of opportunity, and make enormous contributions that would have vastly pleased their forebears.

Women’s Equality Day is certainly not just for women. All can appreciate progress toward a better, fairer America on any of various fronts.

Ultimately, after all, the struggle for equality of all kinds is so that people — of all kinds — can do the most challenging and rewarding thing: discover and develop their potential as individuals.

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