O Tempora! O Mores!
In the past few months we have been bombarded with reports of marches, demonstrations, and even lawsuits, as the world reels in response to a whirlwind of activity from the new administration in Washington. Many executive orders, cabinet appointments, and press releases trouble those of us who are committed, in the words of the WWHP mission statement, to equality before the law, without distinction of sex or color or ethnicity. What would Abby do?
Surely when we see violations of the principles enunciated in the 1850 first National Woman’s Rights Convention, we are obliged to bear witness, at the very least. Furthermore, our goals include “the pursuit of equality and justice,” and “the discovery of connections between past and present, for the benefit of the future.” When some citizens are treated more equally than others (to paraphrase George Orwell), whether that inequality is based on gender, country of origin, race, religion or income disparity, we march and we speak out in fulfillment of our stated goals, not out of political bitterness.
Our local heroine, abolitionist Abby Kelley Foster and her husband, Stephen Foster, actually broke the law in sheltering refugees from slavery and risked the punishment of the law. Those of us disappointed by defeat of the first female presidential candidate merely risk being called “poor losers.” But we cannot pretend we don’t see the injustices creeping into our public life. Many of us took to the streets on January 21, 2017, raising our voices in protest against recent violations of basic American values. We are angry and vigilant not because a woman lost the election. Rather, we are responding to outrageous measures that threaten the very mission and goals of this nation generally and this organization specifically. And that’s not “political”; it’s responsible citizenship.
Another goal of WWHP is “the development of strong relationships with women's groups, historical organizations, and the community.” As a new member of the League of Women Voters, I have found reaffirmation in assisting at recent naturalization ceremonies at Mechanics Hall. There newly-minted citizens are surrounded by portraits of Abby Kelley Foster, Dorothea Dix, Clara Barton, and Lucy Stone (portraits commissioned by WWHP a few years ago). Those women endured a lot of opposition and bullying as they liberated, healed, and inspired in their day. May their bravery and commitment to equality support us in these challenging times.
We remember our past to better shape our future. Guided by the spirits of the brave women who have gone before, let us shape the future to fulfill their vision in every way.
See you in the future. Let’s do what we can to make it a good one.