Let’s celebrate equality in Linn County

Less than 100 years ago, those who fought for women’s equality were derided as inferior, lazy, oversexed, masculine, childlike and unworthy of consideration.

Even now, when a female combat veteran is the first woman to represent Iowa in Congress, and a major political party nominated its first woman for president, it is easy to forget that American women battled for 80 years to earn the right to vote. The 19th Amendment, which took a lifetime to accomplish, is now a lifetime in the past. Yet stereotypes of women as sex objects or puppets to biological and emotional whims persist.

It was only four years ago, during the 2012 presidential campaign, that a national news organization announced “something may raise the chances for both presidential candidates that’s totally out of their control.” The headline? “Do hormones drive women’s votes?”

That’s one of the major reasons why, for more years than I’ve been alive, women across the country have come together on Aug. 26 to demonstrate on behalf of and celebrate Women’s Equality Day. It is the anniversary of the day U.S. Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby signed the 19th Amendment into law in 1920.

I’m especially honored this year to be part of the program hosted by the Women’s Equality Coalition of Linn County. The event will take place at the Kirkwood Training and Outreach Services Center in Marion on Friday, Aug. 26, beginning at 6:15 p.m. Advance tickets ($10 per person, $6 for students and seniors) are available at the Piersall Law Firm, 3716 First Ave. NE.

The Women’s Equality Coalition of Linn County promotes the preservation and advancement of women’s rights. They believe, as do I, in a society that values women and girls and empowers them with equal opportunities.

Four amazing Linn County women will be honored as a part of this year’s ceremony. Iowa Sen. Liz Mathis, Iowa Breast Cancer Action Foundation President Michelle Cole, Sisters Health Club owner and President Kristy Butterfield and nurse, educator and family advocate Gwen Randall will be recognized for their ongoing efforts and as role models.

Sharing the stage with them, as well as with the spirit of the many Linn County women who have previously been recognized for their service, is humbling, to say the least. I just keep reminding myself what I’ve been telling women across the country for years: Each of our voices, however trembling or bold, is not only needed, but required.

That was a lesson repeatedly given to me by the person who remains the largest feminist influence in my life — my father. He taught me to speak up for what I saw as wrong, and to know that my sisters and I could do anything and be anything.

Long before I embarked on a career in the public’s eye and had experienced firsthand how sexist some in this world can be, my father explained how those who stoop to attack your appearance instead of your positions already have conceded their defeat.

So, in honor of him, and all the strong people, male or female, who aim to elevate and encourage, I will proudly take the stage Aug. 26 to help celebrate this 96th landmark anniversary. I hope to see you there.

This column by Lynda Waddington originally published in The Gazette on August 7, 2016.