Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy on Women's History Month

Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy
On the Commemoration of
Women’s History Month and the Centennial Women’s Suffrage March
February 28, 2013

Tomorrow we will begin commemoration of Women’s History Month -- an annual occasion to celebrate and honor the many contributions of women to American history, culture and society.  Since our Nation’s founding, generations of women have fought injustice and broken down barriers at home, in the workplace and in their communities in pursuit of the American dream.  During Women's History Month, we remember these struggles, celebrate our collective progress, and renew our commitment to protecting the rights of all women.

Earlier this month, the Senate came together in the best tradition of the chamber to pass the Leahy-Crapo Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act with a strong bipartisan vote. This bill would not have passed without the strong leadership and support of every woman currently serving in the Senate. And today, the House of Representatives passed our bipartisan bill to help survivors of rape, domestic violence, stalking and human trafficking.  On the eve of Women’s History month, Congress’s actions will prevent terrible crimes and help countless victims rebuild their lives.

A few days from now, on March 3, 2013, we will mark the centennial celebration of the 1913 Women’s Suffrage Procession -- a watershed moment in the struggle for women’s right to vote.  On March 3, 1913 -- the eve of the inauguration of President Woodrow Wilson -- more than 5,000 women from every State in the Union assembled in Washington, D.C., to march for the right to vote.  They did so in the face of widespread opposition to their cause and some were hospitalized after violence erupted along the parade route.  A century later, this courageous public act is recognized as the key turning point that led to the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution, giving women the right to vote in 1920. 

In the coming days, we will witness the arc of American history, as thousands of women retrace the steps of the heroines of 1913, by reenacting the Women’s Suffrage March.  This “Centennial Women’s Suffrage March” will be led by the women of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated -- the only African American women’s organization to participate in the 1913 march.  I commend Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, UniteWomen.org, the American Association of University Women, the Daughters of the American Revolution and the many other women’s organizations that will join forces to reenact this historic event.  I also commend the many government and private-sector institutions that will support this event, including the National Archives and Records Administration, the National Park Service, the National Women’s History Museum, and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. 

Like the many Americans who will commemorate the Women’s Suffrage March this weekend, I celebrate the progress that we have made towards justice, fairness and equality for women -- and for all of our citizens.  But, while we have made remarkable strides towards gender equality, gender discrimination still exists.  According to a recent study by the American Association of University of Women, fulltime working women who are recent college graduates earn, on average, just 82 percent of what their male counterparts earn in the workplace.  This gender wage gap directly affects the economic stability of American families.  A Center for American Progress report on women in the workplace found that in 2010, nearly two-thirds of all American mothers were either the primary breadwinner for their family, or shared that financial responsibility with a spouse or a partner.

As we celebrate Women's History Month, the courageous acts of the American heroines of 1913 should inspire us all to work to eliminate the gender inequalities that still exist in our society today.  I join all Americans in celebrating the countless contributions of women to our Nation’s history and culture, and in working towards a more just and fair society for future generations of American women and girls.

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