Empowered 100 Years

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August 2020 Issue
by Marina Karis     Photography (above) by Library of Congress
Photography (below) by T.R. Love, T.R. Media World

In celebration of the 100 year anniversary of women’s right to vote,
Pink gathered a few knowledgeable and inspirational women to discuss what this
anniversary and having the right to vote means to them.
It has been said that when two or more women come together there is power.

This discussion was a powerful and peaceful meeting of the minds,
which showcased a passion for women’s history, a respect for those women who went
before us and the vision to sustain hopes and dreams for the future.

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Margaret McManus has spent her professional and most of her volunteer career involved in the pursuit of understanding International Relations. She has a BA in International Relations from American University in Washington, D.C., which led to a career in Intelligence. She retired from the Central Intelligence Agency as a Senior Analyst, and after doing some CIA contract work, decided to make a change.
    Since coming to South Carolina, she has volunteered at The Coastal Discovery Museum as a history docent, then joined The World Affairs Council serving as Vice-President for 5 years. She is past Chairwoman of Women in Philanthropy and currently serves on the Executive Committee Board for The Greater Island Council of Hilton Head and Bluffton.

Erin Reichert has been a high school social studies teacher for the past 20 years. Erin loves inspiring students about the relevancy of US history. She has won various education awards, including being named the South Carolina Milken Educator in 2018 and the Daughters of the American Revolution Outstanding History Educator Award in 2017. Erin loves all things history and travel. She enjoys an active Lowcountry lifestyle with her husband and three daughters, who she hopes will grow to love history as well. Read more about Erin and her sister here.

Laura Burcin is the State President of American Association of University Women, whose mission is equity for women and girls. She retired from a 30 year career as an aerospace engineer with a broad customer base of NASA, the US Air Force, and commercial satellites. Laura is a Fiber Artist today in Beaufort SC, who also enjoys boating with her husband in her spare time.

Dr. Patricia Felton-Montgomery is retired from the world of public school administration and undergraduate and graduate, but not from her love of educational pursuits in life. She is the president of Montgomery Educational Associates and also previously served as Director of Educational Leadership for the Mid-Atlantic Regional Educational Laboratory at Temple University, the Laboratory for Student Success (LSS). Most recently, she has served as the president of the League of Women Voters of the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Area. Her interests in history, including Suffragist history and the role of African-American women in holding our nation to its high standards of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all, began in childhood watching her activists parents participate in civil rights campaigns to change the laws and culture of our nation.
   Her interest in African-American history resulted in her becoming a member of the board of the Historic Mitchelville Freedom Park. She is also a member of the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority and the mother of two outstanding young men, Gregory Hassan Montgomery and Clifton Amir Montgomery, loves her life.

Sunni Bond is a retired teacher, antique dealer and private investigator. Her avocation through all of these "jobs" has been genealogy. As registrar for the Capt. William Hilton DAR Chapter on Hilton Head Island and genealogical researcher at Heritage Library for almost 10 years, she loves helping people trace their lineage. She is especially pleased when it results in a patriot from the American Revolution.
    Sunni has taught classes offered by Heritage Library ( named by
USA Today as one of the top 10 genealogical libraries). She is also an active member at St Andrew by-the-Sea United Methodist Church where she serves as a greeter, an usher and a reader (she also coordinates the entire group of readers for both services). Sunni's late husband, Thomas J. Bond, was active in the National Society Sons of the American Revolution, in line to become Secretary General when he was killed in a home accident in 1997.

It’s been a mere 100 years since women received the right to vote. What do you want women today, especially young women,
to remember in regards to what the Suffragists did
for moving women forward?

Patricia: “People often say about the 19th amendment that women were given the right to vote, instead of saying that they fought for the right to vote. They did things that too many people today see as negative, in terms of the protests. They picketed the White House around the clock, which was not seen as very lady like, nor patriotic. These women were willing to go to jail where they were held as political prisoners. They were willing to go on food strikes, and they were forced fed to make them break away from their cause. Woodrow Wilson was totally against this movement. This was not a passive movement—the right did not come easily.”

Sunni: Alice Paul- I highly respect her for participating in the first women’s political protest in front of the white house. Arrested and sent to the Occoquan Workhouse (prison) in Virginia, where she ran a hunger strike. The workhouse stayed a prison until 2001 and today it is now an art’s center with a plaque on it given by the DAR.

Laura: “What I would really like to tell the young women is that the suffragists became brilliantly savvy  in order to pass the 19th amendment and work through that very political environment. We really need to push more young women into politics. Politics is not dirty, it is where we make change happen!”

Who in the historic American Women’s Suffrage movement do you most relate to or respect?

Sunni: Alice Paul, not because I necessarily relate to her, but I highly respect her. I respect the fact that she participated in picketing the white house, was arrested, organized the hunger strike, experienced force feedings, beatings and sleep deprivation. I don’t know if I would be able to do any of that but she certainly did. She was a woman who was determined, dedicated and bravely willing to stand up for what was deserved for women everywhere.

Laura: For me it would be Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who I would call the first super mom. She did all she did while raising seven children! She beat back the stereotype that the suffragists were all angry women. She was not; she was a wonderful wife and mother and still managed to stand up for and lead the Seneca Falls Convention.

Erin: I am very interested in the Grimke sisters and just fascinated by the amount of courage they had. Many of the women leaders lived in communities that were to some degree more supportive of what were radical beliefs at that time. But the Grimke sisters were shunned by their family and the entire community because they chose to support the movement.

Over the last 100 years, what changes for American women
have made the biggest impact on your life?

The biggest change has been becoming ourselves, in our own right. There have been so many minor things that have changed that you don’t think make a big difference, but they do in self respect, pride and dignity.

The expectation that women can pursue a higher education that leads them into a higher paying career. 100 years ago, you were allowed to pursue a higher education but it was typically to be a teacher. Women could go to medical school but they could only really treat other women.  But I think for me, the idea that I could be an engineer never really occurred to me until my undergraduate studies. Now, 50 percent of colleges have women who are pursuing careers that can lead to higher paying jobs, that will hopefully help us.

Margaret: The biggest impact for me was the work to get equal pay for equal work done. And, we’re still not there, but we are so much better than where we started.

Erin: I’ve been teaching for 20 years, and when I first started, we saw more males in the engineering and stem career classes. It’s totally not that way anymore—half of my students are girls! There has been huge strides with that in education; they are integrated overall.
    Within my own personal life, I would say marriage equality has really come a long way. Now women can enter a marriage differently and have different expectations about who is doing what in the relationship. However, I have three daughters, and every time I left for maternity, leave it would set me back in my career, which I find to be problematic in the educational field. A lot of teachers are women, women have babies. But, I will say educational access has come a long way, and marriage expectations have made a lot of progress

The 19th Amendment was written in the context as follows: “Voting shall not be denied, or abridged, on account of sex…,”  so why is it so important for women to vote? What does the women’s vote mean to most elections today?

“As an election manager, I have to say it is important for everyone to vote. But what many people don’t realize is that in this country, women outnumber men. In 2017, there were approximately 166 million women vs 159 million men. This means if every woman who is registered to vote actually voted, women could carry the election!

Margaret: Women need to get out and vote. We can make the changes! If every woman voted, things would be up to us.

Erin: There has been push for progress, but there has also been a push back, a counter movement against women, by women. I think one of the biggest problems is women are divided. I see it with young women—when a woman has an opportunity to be in a higher position, there is backlash against that woman.”

Patricia: The women’s right to vote is critical. Women voting has supported equal pay, as well as health care, children’s welfare, education, gender harassment and the general well-being of our society. That’s what women push for and vote for. All of our progress has been hard fought for, and if we don’t continue the fight and stay vigilant, they will go away.

Laura: Voting and staying aware is important so that we don’t lose what we have worked so hard for all these years.”

Looking ahead to the next 100 years,
what do you hope women will be able to accomplish?

Margaret: In the next 100 years, I would like to see affordable childcare. I think childcare contributes to that divide in women, between the ones who want to be a stay at home mom and the ones who want to work. I don’t know how it could work but some sort of system that can provide childcare for those who need it. Really affordable and good childcare would make a huge difference. We also need to raise the bar for the people taking care of our children.

Erin: The type of economy we have now is completely different, and women work so much, why aren’t we concerned with childcare? It’s incredibly expensive and most of it falls on us [women] to figure out. I am in the thick of it. If we do an every other day school situation, I have no idea what I would do with my kids on the other days. It’s a reality and a huge concern for women right now.”

Patricia: “This coronavirus has shown just how broken our healthcare and childcare systems are. We don’t have a good system to make sure that no child goes unfed. The virus has really pointed that out. I hope that in the next few years, not 100, we will have solved these kinds of problems: economic inequities, housing inequities and education, healthcare and childcare inequities. My biggest hope would be that we all look at everyone as a human being worthy of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That is why I am in the League of Women Voters.

If you could wave your hands to make a change to better our country for women, what would you change?

Sunni: Eradicate domestic abuse. It is not always the male who is the perpetrator but stats show who 1 in 7 males are victims and 1 in 4 women are victims of domestic abuse. Oftentimes they are not taken seriously. Just as we need programs for good healthcare and childcare, we need better programs to eradicate domestic abuse. Because it doesn’t just affect the women, but it affects the children, as well. Children who are in the homes with domestic abuse normalize it and that is how it gets carried on from generation to generation.

Laura: Unfortunately we do not have diversity in leadership. It takes diversity to really create and be innovative, work through problems and solve all of the issues. And we don’t have it. We are represented in our companies, education and politics mostly by white men. So that is something I would like to see changed. That will lead us to a country that continues to be great.

Erin: Quality and equality in education. I believe education is the great equalizer in our society and will transform it the most. Whatever it is that we find problematic, if we do a better job at educating the kids and providing them with equal quality education, that would go a long way for the future of America.

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