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Beacon Senior News

Unity drives change

Mar 03, 2020 11:19AM ● By Bonnie McCune

The men who supported women’s fight for social change

Twenty-six years ago, in 1993, a group of Colorado women, including me, launched a commemoration of the state’s women’s suffrage.

As I became involved with the project, I learned about the history of women’s political efforts. Women’s rights came more quickly out here. Perhaps that’s because the Homestead Act of 1862 allowed single, widowed, divorced or deserted women to file for property ownership. Or because married women on homesteads and ranches often had to assume men’s responsibilities and equal amounts of hard duties to keep the holdings afloat.

The personalities, strengths, weaknesses and emotions of notable women make for an exciting and educational account. But women’s fight for change also came with the help of the men who supported them.

Come together

If it weren’t for my husband, I wouldn’t have ventured on my own empowering journey of social change.

Years ago, when my children were babies, my husband and I decided that family responsibilities were a benefit as well as a responsibility. We decided to alternate between childcare and employment to support our family. This began as a one-year period but quickly extended to two, then five-year rotations when we realized no one would hire us for any kind of decent wage if we constantly hopped in and out of jobs.

The first five years were my assignment. Because a stay-at-home mom wasn’t unusual, no one blinked an eye. However, when we rotated, the response changed. Upon learning my husband was trying his hand at writing, one woman congratulated me on letting him be “the creative one,” never acknowledging my struggles at composing the written word. Other responses included sly comments about his “alcohol problem,” “lack of job skills,” or “no ambition.”

None were true. The first step in our unusual transition was my husband’s. One day, when the kids were very little, he offered to let me have an entire day each week to do whatever I wanted while he took care of the house and children. I pulled out a piece of paper and toted up the number of hours I normally spent on my chores. When I realized the accumulated time was well over 10 hours a day, seven days a week, while he was working eight hours a day, five days a week, I surrendered without complaint.

Colorado was the first state to institute votes for women through a popular vote. (In other words, men voted to endorse the move.) So just as women’s right to vote in Colorado was approved by men, my personal voyage to women’s lib was launched and sustained by a man—my husband.

Is this often true of social change? Maybe. Certainly, the prohibition on slavery never would have occurred without the support of white men and women. The realization that children deserved protection from excessive labor and horrid conditions came from adults. If the #MeToo movement bears productive results, it will occur because people of all genders support it and come together in a spirit of goodwill.

[Read more about a local suffragette here.]