Activists Celebrate International Women's Day At Fla. Capitol

Mar 8, 2013

Tallahassee NOW President Della Fahnestock talks at the Old Historic Capitol on Friday.
Credit Jessica Palombo / WFSU-FM

Friday is the United Nations’ annual International Women’s Day, meant as a time to reflect on injustice against women worldwide. In observance of the day, activists took to the steps of Florida’s Historic Capitol Building with a message for state lawmakers.  

Passions ran high during Tallahassee’s Women’s Day celebration, as women’s rights lobbyist Barbara DeVane gestured to the Florida Capitol building behind her.

“It’s our job to educate, motivate, activate, agitate and eliminate the ***holes up here who are trying to keep women down,” she said, to applause.

DeVane talked about several bills filed this session. She’s opposed to ones that would limit a woman’s right to choose abortion. And she also is against a proposed alimony overhaul.

On the other hand, she supports equal pay for women and ratifying the federal Equal Rights Amendment, which would guarantee no law could discriminate against women. Florida is one of 15 states not to have ratified the amendment since it was introduced in 1923. Three more states are needed for it to be added to the U.S. Constitution. DeVane called on people to contact their state representatives.

“So it is up to us to rise up and call, e-mail, go get in their faces, and demand that they hear these bills in committee,” she said.

“Bread and Roses,” an anthem from the early days of the women’s rights movement, echoed across the Capitol lawn. Bread signified earning power; roses were for quality of life. Women’s Day was first celebrated in the U.S. in 1909 to honor New York garment workers going on strike to protest unsafe working conditions.

And a century later, Della Fahnestock, president of the Tallahassee chapter of the National Organization for Women, said,

“Today our voice goes out into the ether along with every voice of every women’s gathering across the globe. And we are one. We are in solidarity. And we will continue to press the mark, push the boundaries and make progress.”

Fahnestock said, Women’s Day is a time to reflect on the places where women are much worse off than they are in Florida.

“Today we’re going to recognize, as privileged people in this country, that around the world there are 600 million women who live in countries where domestic violence is not even a crime.”

And Melanie Androde, who does community outreach for a group called the Dream Defenders at Florida A&M University, read a speech from the 1851 Women’s Rights Convention, delivered by former slave Sojourner Truth.

She read, in part, “He says women can’t have as many rights as men because Christ wasn’t a woman. Where did your Christ come from?”

Women continue trailing behind men in holding elected office. In Florida, although women make up about half of the population, only 25 percent of state lawmakers are female. According to the Center for American Women and Politics, Florida is ahead of half of all states for the proportion of women in the statehouse. Colorado ranks No. 1, with 41 percent.