In a 2005 article for "Development Journal," I attempted to explain why women pioneers in America needed to immediately fight for their rights. I wrote, "Contrary to the enduring misogynist portrayal of heroic males and submissive females, women were often more cunning and able than their strongest male counterparts. And for good reason. Their own government deemed them inconsequential. The Declaration of Independence never mentioned them. [It stated] 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men...'1
There is no mention of women, nor their rights, their equality or their liberty [in the 'Declaration of Independence']. From the instant the nation was founded, women fought for their independence and made their own declaration to fight."
Gratefully for me, coming of age two centuries later in the 1970's, women leaders were no longer an anomaly. In fact, three women in particular caught my eye.
The first was trail-blazing Manhattan Congresswoman, Bella Abzug, who took center stage in my political life. It was Bella Abzug, not Nancy Pelosi, who coined the phrase "this woman's place is in the House -- the House of Representatives," in her 1970 Congressional campaign. An unflinching opponent of the Vietnam War, Bella was a constant presence in New York media, featured almost daily on TV. My fellow New Yorkers saw her as fearless and outspoken. Some saw her as quirky and shrill. I just saw her as Bella, a woman leading the way.
Around the same time, another media darling ruled the airwaves in New York. Madame Golda Meir, the Iron Maiden Prime Minister of the nation state of Israel from 1969 through 1974. Golda's tenure was so replete with historical milestones, including the 1972 Israeli Olympic Team massacres and the 1973 Yom Kippur War, that she was a constant headliner in print and on TV. In 1970's pro-Israel New York, Golda was a major player on our stage.
Also at this time, the feminist movement enjoyed a meteoric rise, lead by dynamic Gloria Steinem. Buoyed by the 1972 launch of Ms. Magazine, the photogenic Ms. Steinem frequently dominated the news.
Needless to say, my formative years as a young woman activist filled me with expectations for a lifetime of equality, which as we now know, never came to fruition. The disparity in numbers between men and women in governing and leadership positions is evident, forcing the battle for equality to rage on. I'm thrilled Nancy Pelosi is Speaker of the House, but dismayed we have yet to have a woman President. Proud though I am of Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm and Senator Carol Moseley Braun for valiantly daring to try.
Today, according to political watchers and pundits, money-men and mainstream media, the United States has its first formidable female contender for the Presidency of the United States. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton! As a politically active woman who desires equality in office, Mrs. Clinton's candidacy should rally my support. But sadly, it does not!
What rails me instead are Mrs. Clinton's frequent statements over the past four years in support of the War on Iraq. What ails me is her inconsistency. What angers me is her continued funding of the war. What infuriates me is the ease with which she sends young Americans to fight a war that can force them to kill or be killed. What saddens me is that Mrs. Clinton as a woman offers no more hope for peace than the supporters of this war who are men.
I've been against this war from the beginning. I can't imagine supporting a woman to lead this nation who knows less than I do about peace vs. war, and candor vs. pander.
Give me instead, direct-speaking, newly progressive John Edwards, who takes full responsibility for his mistake in supporting the war, desires open discussion with Bush's proclaimed enemies, admits to a potential tax raise to provide universal health care, supports unions, and vows to work for the working class.
And along with John, give America a truly great woman for the White House. Give us his wonderful wife, Elizabeth Edwards, who will instill in the White House the humanity and warmth it has lacked for so long. The Edwards are a masterful couple. They've weathered unfathomable personal tragedy with dignity, humanity and grace. Characteristics America sorely needs to restore its image at home and abroad.
Give me Barack and Michelle Obama. This past Tuesday evening I had the good fortune to see and hear Barack and Michelle Obama at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. Yes, I was impressed with Senator Obama. He's charming, poised, thoughtful and highly intelligent. He'd be a popular, soothing leader, working hard to reset Bush's tainted world stage. Give me Barack. A child of the world who directed himself into an adulthood to be proud of.
Give me the Barack Obama described by Michelle Obama as a regular guy, "who can harness the energy in all of us and take us to greater places.... the Harvard Law Review, Constitutional law professor, best selling author, and Grammy winner..."
Compare that to the pre-Presidency accomplishments of the current President who was raised in one of the wealthiest families in America, only to drink away the first 40 years of his life. How dare people question Obama's experience? What I'd give for just five minutes of a Barack Obama/George W. Bush debate even after six years of Bush's "experience" in the highest office in the world.
And Michelle Obama. What an impressive woman. As powerful, charming and dynamic as her husband. A Harvard graduate, mother, dedicated wife and as she says, "a citizen" who wants the best for her country. What a White House the Obamas would have. A true House of the People from which to reconcile and re-engage the world.
We all know if Hillary is elected, she presides with Bill. They're a team. But a team with baggage. Hillary brings Bill. Bill brings the Bushes. Until Bill renounces the Bushes, the White House must be off limits to him.
Michelle and Barack Obama are also a team. As are Elizabeth and John Edwards. Barack succeeds better with Michelle. John succeeds better with Elizabeth. America benefits from both of their unions.
On Fox television this past January 30th, Rae Abileah, an impressive young spokeswoman for CODEPINK Women For Peace, appeared on the Hannity and Colmes show. Responding to a question from Alan Colmes about Hillary Clinton as a candidate, young Abileah stated, "I'd love to support Hillary Clinton as the first woman Presidential candidate for office. I'd love to vote for a woman for President but I can only do that if she becomes a woman of values and courage who can lead our country toward peace."
Transcending generations, younger women like Rae Abileah, along with older women like me, yearn for women leaders worthy of our support. But just being a woman isn't sufficient justification for support. As Rae so aptly stated, we need "a woman of values and courage who can lead our country toward peace." From my perspective, that woman is not Hillary Clinton.
And so Rae, myself and millions of women will wait for the right woman leader. Until such time that our proper woman President does come along, I have complete confidence that Michelle Obama or Elizabeth Edwards would be exceptional women occupants of the White House, sharing their gifts of leadership with our nation and the world.
For now, I can only hope that one of these two life partners will be the Number One Woman in the White House. My thanks to Mr. Obama and Mr. Edwards for giving Americans two fabulous First Ladies from which to choose!