For many, Feb. 14 conjures images of Cupids and hearts, but on this date in 1920, a group of tenacious and farsighted women acted on their deep love for democracy and equality to found the League of Women Voters.
Supported by women’s suffrage movement leaders and buoyed by the anticipated ratification of the 19th Amendment, the League sought to empower nearly 20 million women to use their voices along with their impending ability to vote.
Now in 2020, the league’s ongoing work is part of a critical and just as pressing imperative: fostering civic engagement among today’s women, including our youngest female voters.
It is no surprise that Charleston’s own Mary Vardrine McBee, who in 1909 founded Ashley Hall more than a decade prior to women gaining the vote, was a proud suffragist and member of the league.
A visionary educator, Miss McBee saw the potential and power in female leadership and sought to prepare her students for dynamic roles enacting change, a legacy Ashley Hall students have fulfilled for decades.
Indeed, over the past century, girls’ schools have served as a wellspring for civic engagement, with the National Coalition of Girls’ Schools reporting that 20 percent of the women currently serving in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives graduated from an all-girls’ school. However, that success is dwarfed by the stark reality that less than 24% of Congress is female and, in South Carolina, women hold less than 16% of legislative seats. We can, and must, do better.
Such a mandate begins by following Miss McBee’s example: empowerment through education.
It is not enough to simply tell girls they can be leaders; we must be proactive in modeling female leadership and creating the means for their direct participation in civic engagement.
Through leadership opportunities and work with community partners, they begin to understand that civic engagement, from the local to global level, is both their right and their responsibility.
Living nearly half of her life without the right to vote, Miss McBee foresaw a time when the young women she taught would become leaders in a new era.
On this day, let us remember when a group of suffragists, courageous in heart and iron-willed, began a movement of female empowerment, and let us take up their mission by cultivating an attitude of service and civic engagement for the next generation.
Head of School
I was happy to see the long-awaited renourishment of the Crab Bank near Shem Creek will soon begin. Bo Petersen’s Feb. 11 Post and Courier article was good, informative reading.
But there is another area in the harbor that is in equal peril of being lost due to rising sea levels and what many believe are the destructive effects of the larger container ships plying the channel to and from the Wando Terminal.
Historic Castle Pinckney, a fort built in 1810 and named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1970, lies on Shutes Folly between Patriots Point and peninsular Charleston’s eastern waterfront.
The shipping lane for these huge container ships lies between Shutes Folly and Patriots Point.
Since the Wando Terminal was built, there has been a rapidly advancing erosion on the shipping-lane side of Shutes Folly, imperiling Castle Pinckney itself.
I believe that the wash from these mega-ships, along with rising sea levels, are the culprits at both Crab Bank and Shutes Folly.
It is happening before our very eyes. But no one seems to be talking about losing Castle Pinckney.
What a fiasco that CARTA purchased new 40-foot-long buses that are too long to navigate the streets of Charleston.
It’s ironic that Elliott Summey, a CARTA board member, has now been appointed as CEO of the Aviation Authority.
If he can’t get the buses right at CARTA, maybe he will do better with airplanes at the airport.
Indigo Marsh Circle
PRO Act vital
I am writing to respond to a recent commentary by Rep. Ralph Norman and remarks by Rep. Joe Cunningham concerning the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, also known as the PRO Act.
These congressmen should stop voting with CEOs and multinational corporations and start voting with hard-working South Carolina families. Our state cannot continue down the path of protecting corporations at the expense of working families. We should be investing in education, infrastructure, seniors and our rural communities.
The current law gives too much power to employers and creates too many barriers for workers who want a voice in the workplace. The act would establish penalties for corporations that violate workers’ rights and misclassify workers as supervisors or independent contractors.
It also would authorize unions and employers to negotiate agreements that allow unions to collect fair-share fees to cover the cost of representation.
Most importantly, it would protect the integrity of union elections against coercive captive audience meetings and create mediation and arbitration processes to ensure corporations and newly formed unions reach a first contract.
My union dues have been an investment. I am fortunate to have what many don’t: a decent living wage, health insurance, life insurance and retirement security.
The PRO Act will give South Carolina workers a fair shot. The middle class didn’t just happen. It was created by labor unions.
Upgrade SC jails
Having known three people who suffered more than necessary in horrible South Carolina jails, the lead story on Feb. 7 resonated with me.
Some inmates are being punished for crimes they did not commit; others need to be removed from society.
Whatever the case, reforming and upgrading jails, particularly in the town of Hampton, is badly needed.
North Adgers Wharf
Perhaps it’s time to revisit the humor of Will Rodgers who said, “I don’t belong to any organized political party, I’m a Democrat.”
The other party might take comfort from a quote by Lyndon Johnson who said, “If I walked across the Potomac river tomorrow, the headlines would read ‘President can’t swim.’ ”