What privileges do you enjoy today? Do you have air-conditioning when the sun scorches your back? Do you have heating machines when the cold bites you from deep inside? Do you have a vehicle that brings you to your destination without you having to hike three mountains or so? Which of these privileges do you take for granted? It’s because you never experienced living without these privileges that you do not fully understand and appreciate their importance. What other rights do you have? Are girls allowed to go school with boys?
Are women given access in the universities as men are? Can women engage in careers that men are engaged in? Can women vote? I am Mary Ellise Scott. An eighteen-year-old lady from Pennsylvania. And through this letter I will explain to you how different your time is from my time. There was a time when all these were deprived of women. Take for instance the right to vote. In the 19th century, in my century, I am already am eighteen years old. But despite this fact, I am not allowed to vote – I am not allowed to choose who will represent my needs in government.
This is why in my century Carrie S. Burnham, a teacher and a physician took her case to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania on 4 April 1873. This was already the peak of her campaign, as she was already going around Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, and all other cities in the country, speaking about this. I was just sixteen years old when she came and spoke in our town square. I always thought before that the order that things are in now, is that’s what it’s supposed to be – men vote and women don’t, just because.
I never thought of it in a perspective of inequality until I heard her arguments about it. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court rejected her arguments. Susan B. Anthony campaigned for the same rights, and eventually got senators to amend the Constitution and finally allow women to vote. There are others who are like this during my time. There are many women who thought and realized that the handicap they are accorded on account of their sex is just plain unfair. One of these is Mary Church Terrel. Indeed, it is difficult to be a woman during my time.
While we are already allowed to go the university and study, most of the parents who send their children who are women to school, just do the same for the sake of saying that they allow their children to go to school. But after graduating, their daughters are already to marry. She goes to the university to study how it is to be a good housewife for the most part, and the other subject matters that would later on translate to a career, are disregarded. I consider those daughters lucky. At least they get to go to the university.
For my case, father never allowed me to go to the university. He thought that my education was more than enough to find me a good husband and allow me to become a good mother. Father thinks that this is the only purpose that a woman has. A woman, as my mother had to stay at home, attend to the chores and needs of the husband and the children. He tells me that I do not need some fancy education and some expensive diploma to allow me to do this. He tells me that I will learn about being a good wife and mother, by staying at home and helping my mother out.
I want to be a doctor you know. But how can I do that when my father only believes that I am meant for the broom and the ladle. This is also why the men in the family are more valued than the women. Aside from the fact that they have all the privileges you can think of, fathers treat them differently. They are the favorites because for them the men bring glory to the family, as they bring home the money and as they have the chance to pursue careers and become good at their fields, while women are just good for the house.
There is a certain repulsion that I feel deep inside, with the knowledge that there really is no substantial difference between my brother and I, for him to be able to go to the university and for him to be able to vote. If he can decide for his country, why can’t I? Just because I am woman, I cannot vote. I do not see any logic in that. You see, you are lucky. You have everything you need and many more. So appreciate what you have and realize how difficult it was for us during this time to pursue something other than being homemakers. Women are not just for the brooms and ladle, we are for the books and for careers as well.