We've Gone A Long Way Backward

By Donna Griffin, author/educator

Candidate, Indiana House District 88

“Unless women demand their rights politically, socially and financially, they will continue in the future as in the past." - from the constitution of the Women's Rights Convention in Dublin, IN, 1851.

On July 19-20, 1848, the first Women’s Rights Convention was held in the United States at Seneca Falls, NY. But what many Hoosiers do not know is, in October 1851, three years later, Indiana suffragists held a similar meeting at Dublin in Wayne County. I never heard about this significant event when I studied Indiana history, but it came as no surprise that political leaders’ attitudes have changed little in the last 175 years.

  • “In response to proposed women’s suffrage, one political leader summed up the views of the day when he noted that women already enjoyed ‘the rights which the Bible designed them to have in this Christian land of ours.’”

Hmmm, we’ve come a long way baby?

  • In 1859, more than 1,000 Hoosiers signed a petition urging the legislature to grant equal political rights to women and to eliminate laws that made distinctions on account of gender. The issue was referred to a committee, which reported back that it saw no need for legislation at that time.

Hmmm, we’ve come a long way baby?

In about a week, the Republican SuperMajority of the Indiana Legislature will continue its assault on women’s rights by calling for a Special Session to consider a total ban on abortion.

If the last 200 years have taught women anything, it is that this state is sexist and women remain second-class citizens.

In Indiana right now:

  • Women make 76 cents for each dollar a man makes.

  • The state’s the maternal mortality rate is the 3rd highest.

  • Infant mortality rate is the 7th highest in the country

  • Child care costs are third highest in the country

We may be 50 percent of the population, but women in Indiana are sorely underrepresented, comprising only 21 percent of seats in the General Assembly.

There’s never been a woman governor or a woman mayor in Indianapolis, our largest city. When teachers banded together against the loss of collective bargaining for work conditions in 2011, and elected an actual woman educator as State Superintendent of Public Instruction, then governor Mike Pence and the legislature changed the position to an appointed one. Now we have an ever-increasing teacher shortage, class sizes rank 9th highest in the nation and fundamental inequities have been exacerbated by legislative action.

Two major actions could make a real difference in the stalemate we’ve known for the last 11 years as Indiana State Government with the Republican SuperMajority controlling the governor’s office and both chambers of the General Assembly.

  1. We need a new agenda for our legislature that addresses the true needs of ALL Hoosiers - not manufactured, propaganda-fueled rhetoric that wastes taxpayers’ time and money.

That means more people need to vote and elect a truly democratic and representative government. https://indianavoters.in.gov/

  1. Voters need to demand that the ERA is ratified. The ERA was passed through Congress with well over the required 2/3 majority vote and sent to the states in 1972. Virginia voted to become the 38th - and last needed- state to meet the three-quarter state ratification requirement in 2020. A new resolution, HRes 891 declares that under Article V, the ERA is already part of the Constitution and became effective on January 27, 2022. Now members of Congress need to approve HRes 891.

Contact your U.S. Senator and Representative to pass this resolution. https://www.eracoalition.org/take-action/recognize-the-era-as-the-28th-amendment

Roe V Wade is a symptom of the lack of gender equality. The 1973 Supreme Court decision was the tradeoff for the continuing failure of our leaders and citizens to ratify the ERA.

If we had the ERA nearly 50 years ago, Roe V Wade would not have been an issue and America would definitely be a different country.

The words of Alice Paul, who first introduced the idea for the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) in 1923, echo even more after 100 years, “We shall not be safe until the principle of equal rights is written into the framework of government.”

And with the actions of the past weeks, it’s become all too clear that the rights of Hoosier women are in jeopardy.