Voting empowers women's rights
August 29, 2013
FORT SILL, Okla. -- Mary McClure spoke at Fort Sill's Women's Equality Luncheon Aug. 22 about women's rights. In great detail, she painted the history of women's suffrage and brought the audience full circle to the issues facing women today.
"It became the law of the land Aug. 18, 1920, upon its ratification by the 36th state needed: Tennessee. It took only the single vote of a legislator who had opposed the amendment, but changed his position after his mother sent him a telegram saying, 'Dear son, Hurrah! And vote for suffrage. Don't forget to be a good boy and help Mrs. Catt put the 'rat' in ratification,'" said McClure.
She said earning the right to vote 93 years ago was the most pivotal moment in women's history.
"With the vote came the power to make change. Although granted the right to vote in 1920, women did not turn out to the poles in the same numbers as men until 1980. Since then, women have voted in at least the same percentage, and often more, impacting the way political elections and the way candidates campaign for office," said McClure.
She went on to say women's voices in fact determined the outcome of the last presidential election, being the majority of voters.
She said this is the first hurdle to creating significant change, but that women, and men, need to stay informed on what's being put up to vote and exercise that right.
"Here's what still needs to be done: health care reform. Women pay $1 billion more each year in individual health care costs. What they're charging women extra for is having 'lady parts.' All health insurance providers must stop pricing women differently starting next year."
McClure said women are now going to college more than men and earning their bachelor's, master's, and even doctoral degrees, in greater numbers, but the top corporate seats remain an "all boys club."
"President Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act 50 years ago. Women now make up the majority of workers and are in many cases the primary bread winners. In 2012 women working full-time earned 77 percent of what men earned. The solution is the Paycheck Fairness Act," said McClure.
She said it would close Equal Pay Act loopholes, give women tools to negotiate for equal pay and strengthen penalties for equal pay violations.
Although she said society as a whole has work to do, she gave the military and civil service kudos for being forward thinking.
"When I became the editor of the Cannoneer in 1979, I was the only woman editor of an Army newspaper. But my pay was exactly the same as any male civilian in the same grade."
McClure and her family moved to Lawton in 1955. She was the editor for the Cannoneer for 18 years and the first woman named to the Army Public Affairs Hall of Fame in 2001.
"I want to introduce to you a trailblazer, a person of courage, a woman who has set the standard for what we're here to celebrate today," said Col. Christopher Bentley, Field Artillery School commandant and chief of FA.
McClure has spent her whole life informing others of current events. She continues that legacy with a weekly commentary called "Slice of Life" on Cameron University's radio station, KCCU-FM.
"I grew up in a telephone office so I was always aware of people's problems and emotions that sort of thing, and I decided when I was 12, I sent off for a correspondence course on how to be a journalist," said McClure.
McClure calls herself a moderate activist. As a member of the Lawton League of Women Voters, AARP State Legislative Committeee for four years, Board of Directors of the Fort Sill Federal Credit Union and part of an informal bi-racial group in Lawton in the '60s, that may be an understatement. She said that passion for using her voice started at an early age.
"I was just always a great reader and I think reading really early about the injustices of all kinds ... and then thinking this needs to be changed," McClure recalled.
She shared her ideas of what the future for women would look like at the luncheon. She said there could be more convenient and cheaper child care; government and community support for single parents; neighborhood schools open 18 hours a day with supervised activities; a climate favorable for women to combine raising a family and having a successful career; more telecommuting and all kinds of work options to include flex time and flex years.
"The glass ceiling shattered. Gone. As the policy makers, women will share committees and there will not be any meetings the day before Thanksgiving and Christmas. Exceptions to new laws won't be grandfathered in they'll be grandmothered in."
Her middle son, a history teacher in Texas, pointed out "nobody, even women, have to vote; it is a right."
"This was his conclusion, 'because women have the vote in the United States and because they use that vote their lives are better, their families are healthier and our nation is stronger.'"
The luncheon was sponsored by the Equal Employment Opportunity Office.