Women have been fighting for equality in the United States since day one. Slowly, women are making progress. There is one segment of society in which very little progress has been made. We still do not honor women the same way we do men.
First of all, look at public statues and monuments. Across the 50 states, this is a male dominated category. Men have been honored with portraits in the U.S. Capitol and in state capitols since 1787. They have been honored with busts, statues, and monuments in town squares, parks, and public places. Until fairly recently in our history, none were women, save for Betsy Ross.
There is a simple reason for this. Most statues and monuments across the nation have been there well over 75 years, and most honor war heroes or famous politicians. Women were not eligible for those honors during the era of monument building.
The nation was almost 150 years old before women could even vote. Poor white men and freed slaves were allowed to vote before women. If a woman couldn’t vote, she could not hold office. From the First Continental Congress, politics was exclusively a men’s club. That is why no signers of the Declaration of Independence were women. Monuments were built to honor presidents, governors, senators, and the like. Women were not allowed in that club either.
Women could not serve in the military during the monument era so only male war heroes could be honored riding a horse, or raising a sword in battle on a public monument. Women were not eligible for that recognition either. Even today, only 9% of the military are women and thus eligible for military honors.
Streets, towns, counties, cities, colleges, and public buildings could have been named for women. Yet, very few were. That remains the case today. Few colleges or universities have been named for a woman unless she donated the money to open the school, or her father or husband did, and named it after her. A woman had to be extraordinary to have something named after them. Women like Florence Nightingale and Dolly Madison occasionally made the cut.
Women have made up the vast majority of teachers since the first public school opened. Yet, the vast majority of public and private schools, if not named after the town in which they are in, are named for a man. Many of those, conveniently, are politicians or war heroes. Few honor outstanding teachers, or women citizens in the community.
The vast majority of nurses and other staff in hospitals have been women. Yet, few hospitals bear the name of a woman, unless she paid for the hospital. Nearly all those who care for the elderly or disabled in nursing homes are women. Still, not many nursing homes are named after a woman.
There is a common stereotypical excuse given for this and that is women are better suited to be care givers than men. The actual reason is that these are jobs men did not want to do. They are jobs that were not deemed to be worth the same pay as other male dominated jobs Therefore, they were the only jobs available to women. Also, until the late 20th century, women were not given the same educational opportunities men were to enable them to become qualified for professional jobs like engineer, doctor, lawyer etc.
It follows then that voters will be inclined to vote for a “war hero” or a male veteran over a woman simply because of their “service” to society. On the other hand, they do not consider the service a woman renders to society in any non-military profession to be of equal value let alone stature.
Wounded warriors are given medals, honored with holidays and parades, as it should be. But women, who educate our children, care for our sick, run businesses that we patronize, discover new medicines, and usually raise our children, do not even deserve a holiday let alone a monument in Washington DC and equal consideration at the ballot box.
The Declaration of Independence claims all men are created equal, but society takes that word “men” literally when it to their advantage to do so. It is time women begin getting the public recognition they deserve.