Women’s History Takes Stage in Classes

Sara Purington

Women’s History Month was in full swing in classrooms at Glendale College.

Many teachers have opened up their classrooms this past month for students to expand their learning on topics pertaining to women’s history month. Glendale offers an array of classes focusing on women, from Philosophy 118: Women, the Earth, and the Divine, which looks at both western and eastern views of women, to History 115: Rebellious Women in History, and several others. These classes take a closer look at the many important contributions women have made and the many struggles they have faced.

On March 15, professor Peggy Renner’s Rebellious Women in History class looked at the spirited fighting women of the suffragist movement. In the 1800s, the idea of women voting was very controversial and some even called it blasphemous. At the time, women’s rights were very limited. Women were also subjected to laws which they had no right to vote for. Many women did not agree with this.

The suffragists, women fighting for the right to vote, started to fight back at the same time as the movement for the abolition of slavery, which many of them also supported. They got their big push in 1848 at a convention in Seneca Falls, N.Y. The convention was headed by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who became one of the most influential women of the suffragist movement. During the convention, 300 women and 40 men voted on whether or not to continue to fight for women’s right to vote. With a winning decision to move forward, the suffragist movement was underway.

Soon Susan B. Anthony, a feisty unmarried school teacher, and Lucy Stone, a rebellious wife and mother, joined the movement along side Stanton and began to make some major noise for women’s right to vote. Stanton also wrote a pamphlet called “The Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions,” which mimicked “The Declaration of Independence” and pointed out how women’s rights had been ignored.

Then, in 1861, the Civil War started and women decided to put aside their efforts in order to lend a hand to the soldiers. When the war ended in 1869, African Americans were given the right to vote through the 15th Amendment. Many women involved in the suffragist movement were very upset that they were not included in this amendment and soon picked up the fight once again.

Soon after, Anthony and 12 other women made their way into the voting booths and voted in the presidential election. Four hours later, barely enough time to celebrate, she was arrested. She was not allowed to testify at her own trial which had a male judge and all-male jury. When she was found guilty Anthony was outraged and pronounced that she would not accept the charges and that, “Resistance to tyranny is obedience to God.”

After this the suffragist movement began to make major strides. Through the help of Alice Meredith, a reporter for the Rocky Mountain News, and Carrie Chapman Catt, a suffragist campaigner, Colorado became the first state to allow women to vote. Even with this triumph, the suffragists still faced opposition and had many hurdles to overcome.

After nearly 72 years of fighting, the suffragists finally won their battle for the right to vote in 1920 through the 19th Amendment.

Humanities 135, Humans and the World of Work, with Professor Rohrbacher also focused attention on women by looking at women in the work place. Rohrbacher mentioned a statistic that today’s workforce is 61 percent female. One female student pointed out the fact that women still make less then men, but a male student rebutted by saying men are more willing and more available to do extra work, which helps them to get ahead. The class then discussed the many issues women face in the workplace, such as if they decide to have children and perhaps would not be able to return to a powerful job.

Deborah Tannen, a Georgetown University professor, coined the phrase “the glass ceiling,” a metaphor for the invisible ceiling that prevents women from advancing in the workplace, that has become a symbol for many women who strive to achieve their goals in the workplace.

Rohrbacher shared a comment from a food critic who wrote that women today can’t cook because they are too busy working. Many women were outraged with his comments as women try very hard to create a balance between being powerful women in the workplace and also maintaining the housewife image of cooking and cleaning.

The class ended with a screening of the 1988 film “Working Girl” directed by Mike Nichols. In this film Melanie Griffith plays a young woman trying to make it in the tough world of business in New York. Sigourney Weaver plays a powerful woman who runs a company and takes Griffith under her wing. Harrison Ford then comes in as someone Griffith partners with to achieve her goals of “breaking through the glass ceiling” and also her love interest.

The movie reinforced the image of women’s struggle in the workplace and showed how very difficult it was in the ’80s for a woman to get ahead.

From the suffragists to today’s businesswomen, females have demonstrated their want for independence and equality, which is an important part of Women’s History Month.