Dems celebrate transition from suffragette to feminista

By Leslie Jorgensen
THE COLORADO STATESMAN

DENVER — Women were the VIPs at the 2008 Democratic Party National Convention on Aug. 26 — a day and evening dedicated to celebrating the 88th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, which gave American women the right to vote.

Forums and receptions lauded the meteoric rise of “feministas” in all walks of life. Among the icons were Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, the first woman to hold that powerful seat, and Sen. Hillary Clinton, the first woman to run the full presidential-primary gauntlet, capturing 18 million votes in the long, long process.

At nearly every event, women’s eyes blurred with tears as they reminisced about their “sister and friend” Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones, a fierce advocate of women’s rights who died less than a week before the convention. The 59-year-old Democrat from Ohio had been scheduled to appear at multiple convention events.

Whether it was the National Organization of Women’s celebration of Women’s Equality Day or the National Women’s Political Caucus reception, the events were packed with a congenial mix of Barack Obama supporters and Clinton delegates.

The events served as a calm catalyst for women and men to bond on behalf of their mothers, wives, sisters and daughters.

“This truly has been a groundbreaking year for women,” said Kim Gandy, president of NOW, welcoming several hundred guests to the EqualiTea at The University Club.

“Eighty-eight years after women won the right to vote, we finally saw a woman run strong for president,” said Gandy. “With Hillary Clinton’s name being placed into nomination at the convention and a truly progressive Democratic platform, we have much to celebrate.”

Women and men attending the EqualiTea wove through Randall Terry’s pro-life protesters, who had papered the exterior walls of club with graphic posters of aborted fetuses. A male voice amplified the tension through a microphone, shouting, “If you go in there, you are a murderer!”

Terry’s protesters handed out disturbing flyers that asked, “Is it immoral to vote for Obama for President?” and accused the presidential candidate of being “an aggressive accomplice of child-killers.”

Another Terry flyer screamed, “Real solutions for the ‘Negro Problem’.” It promoted a fictionalized candidate named Smith “with the courage to deal with the disaster of free Negroes, and the ‘white man’s right to own!’”

The text continued down a hateful path, and then equated the repulsive racial message to voting for “a candidate who supports abortion … No Christian may in good conscience vote for any candidate, for any party, for any office, who supports the slaughter of children by abortion.”

(Before the convention began, Terry made his wish clear to be arrested — and finally made it happen two days later.)

NOW volunteers and staff dashed onto Sherman Street to rescue guests and help them into the building. Inside were white linen-clothed tables covered with tea pastries, fruits and pitchers of flavorful teas and punch.

Congresswoman Maxine Waters, D-Calif., described the dichotomy between the threatening protesters and the congenial people inside the club tearooms.

“You were so sweet to ask me if I needed an escort to get through those people outside,” said Waters, shaking her head. “Heck! I don’t need an escort. Those people don’t intimidate me. In fact, I feel sorry for them. They cannot control their lives if they cannot control their bodies.”

Waters said Roe v. Wade, which accorded women the right to control their reproductive choices is in danger of being scrapped by the outcome of the presidential election.

“Electing Barack Obama is not enough!” declared Waters. “We have to stay on message… Nobody can work harder and do more for you than we ourselves.”

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., captured the crowd’s attention by delineating the differences between the Republican and Democratic presidential candidates’ voting records.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., “has a zero-rated voting record from NARAL,” said Boxer. “Senators Barack Obama and Joe Biden are heroes.”

The chant began and continued through the ensuing speeches, “McCain is a zero; Obama is our hero!”

“When you hear Michelle Obama speak, get on your feet,” implored Boxer. “The Obamas don’t own seven homes like the McCains. When the Obama family sits at a kitchen table, it’s the only one. They’ll fight for the American dream for all middle class.”

“The next time we promise a bigger room – we need a bigger room!” declared Eleanor Smeal, president of Feminist Majority and former president of NOW. “Feminists are everywhere!”

“This is the strongest party platform for women ever adopted by a major party in America!” exclaimed Smeal, listing highlights such as the Equal Rights Amendment, reproductive choice, opposition to any and all efforts to undermine free choice, an extensive health care program and paid family leave.

“You name it, we got it in!” she said with a grin.

Smeal expressed concern about the Human Life Amendment that will be on the Colorado ballot in November. The amendment would define a human being as a fertilized egg.

“The amendment gives more rights to a fertilized egg than the mother,” said Smeal. “This is leading into the erosion of legal rights to contraception. It would eliminate the legal use of the morning-after pill. What will be next?”

The ballot initiative is funded by Colorado for Equal Rights. Kristi Burton, who wrote the amendment, has said it is not aimed at curbing abortion rights.

“It will affect a woman’s right to choose and birth control,” said Smeal.