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Celebrating 'Suffrage to Success': Are All Women Invited to the Party?

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CHARLOTTE, North Carolina – As the board of the National Women's Political Caucus met here over the weekend, it was again an occasion to discuss the question: "Do you have to be pro-choice to be considered a feminist?" The leader of a group dedicated to electing progressive, pro-choice women takes her time answering.

"It's good to see women becoming leaders," Lulu Flores, president of the National Women's Political Caucus (NWPC), told me. "Even conservative women should be seen as leaders," she said, noting that women have traditionally been the behind-the-scenes workhorses of political movements.

"But I frankly don't agree that they are feminists," Flores said. "A true feminist fights for the rights of all women" on issues such as access to health care, reproductive freedom and "truly having a place at the table."
Members of the Susan B. Anthony List, with its mission of "advancing, mobilizing and representing pro-life women," might disagree. The group has announced a 23-city "Votes Have Consequences" bus tour across Ohio, Indiana and Pennsylvania -- beginning Tuesday -- with the release of polling data in districts of pro-life Democrats who voted for the health care bill.

Michele Miller Houck, president of the N.C. Women's Political Caucus, host of the national board meeting, called feminism "the F-word of politics."

It's a continuing conversation among politicians, activists who support and oppose abortion rights, and the women of Woman Up, particularly now that the mantle is increasingly claimed by Sarah Palin and her conservative "mama grizzlies," like South Carolina's GOP gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley, hailed by Newsweek as "The Face of the New South."

The office-holders and candidates in next door North Carolina are more to the NWPC's liking. Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan and Gov. Bev Perdue received endorsements during their campaigns. On Saturday, at an open-to-the-public "Suffrage to Success" event organized by the North Carolina Caucus, Democratic Senate nominee Elaine Marshall got the group's support and $1,000 from the caucus PAC to help in her tough November race against the Republican incumbent, Sen. Richard Burr.

Marshall, North Carolina's secretary of state, touted her work "in the trenches" taking on domestic violence reform, consumer protection regulations, aid to small businesses and other issues that affect women and families.

"She's the whole package," said Flores, who is based in Austin, Texas.

Still, on Saturday, following Marshall's short speech, an analysis on voting trends in the South by Martha Kropf, an associate professor at University of North Carolina at Charlotte, was titled "From Scarlett O'Hara to Nikki Haley." It ended with a nod to the conservative women leaders in the Tea Party.

Among its founders, NWPC lists both Ann Lewis, former political director of the Democratic National Committee, and Elly Peterson, former vice chair of the Republican National Committee. The caucus, founded as a multipartisan, grassroots organization in 1971, is also committed to passage of the Equal Rights Amendment ("It's still out there and we're still trying," Flores said) and dependent care for women trying to balance responsibility for children and aging relatives.

Finding Republican women to politically support became a challenge in the 1980's, "when the Republican Party moved considerably to the right," Flores said. "We can't seem to find" a lot of pro-choice Republican candidates. "The party platform doesn't permit being pro-choice, at least openly." Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine were previously endorsed by the caucus, said Flores, who praised their occasional forays across party lines.

Flores said Palin "took a page from our handbook" by running for local offices and moving up. "She has certainly staked out her place as a leader of this new movement and she's certainly smart," Flores said. "I wish that they were advancing rights for all women instead of being selective feminists."

NWPC is trying to build its base by involving young women and members of minority groups. In Laredo,Texas, Flores' father, Francisco Flores, was a founding member of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC). Lulu Flores, a lawyer, went on to work with Irma Rangel, the first Mexican-American woman elected to the Texas House of Representatives.

"Politics touches everything," Flores said. "Things happen in Washington and things happen in the statehouses," and "unless you're going to be part of the process you won't be able to influence the process."

Sounds like something Sarah Palin would say.

Click here to follow Mary C. Curtis on Twitter.

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If you have to be pro choice to be counted "in", I am proud to be "out".

August 17 2010 at 8:37 AM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
dc walker

Back in the 60s I was very passionate about this subject, now with the 50 million babies in America being aborted, I could care less about these women. I would rather help those who choose to give a human being a chance at a life. Just like my mother did.

August 11 2010 at 9:04 PM Report abuse +9 rate up rate down Reply

Of course, not all women are invited. These organizations do not fight for the rights of "all women" - only those who have the same political agenda. Can't imagine the invitation going out to a proud stay at home mom, small business owner, pro life, pro family and pro marriage woman.

August 11 2010 at 11:42 AM Report abuse +9 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to bubba1zfg's comment
David S.

Then tell those pesky heterosexuals to stop divorcing -- then I will listen to the "pro-marriage" nonsense. Until then, it's just rhetoric and an empty campaign slogan for the GOP....

August 26 2010 at 6:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Susan B Anthony voted "the straight Republican ticket" according to her letter to Katie Stanton after her vote.
Yet, the Democrats claim own women's suffrage.

August 10 2010 at 11:23 AM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to prv8eye's comment

You mean Elizabeth Cady Stanton, 11/12/1815 to 10/26/1902. Republicans were a lot different in the 1800s. Stanton fought for woment's rights, including voting rights, divorce laws, family health and birth control. She wrote one of my favorite books, "The Women's Bible". She uses biblical passages to show that the male dominated religion is not teaching the parts of the bible that benefit women, and passages where the interpretation is wrong when it comes to women. You need to read this book along with the bible. In the 1800s, writing that kind of book took guts.

August 11 2010 at 10:18 AM Report abuse +6 rate up rate down Reply

To be 'moderate' in anythning, is to be 'double-minded'. God's Word says, "A double-minded man is unstable in ALL his ways."
Abortion is murder. PERIOD. Remember the commandment? "Thou shalt not kill"? Enough said. I don't know how much clearer it has to be stated.

August 09 2010 at 12:32 PM Report abuse +7 rate up rate down Reply
3 replies to Tracie's comment

Why does this issue continue to rear its' non-issue head? Seventy-five percent of women in this country are pro-choice, to a degree. A vast number of moderate/conservative women do not wish to force their personal beliefs on others, unlike the liberal women who think they know what is best for every woman. None of us can understand the circumstances of another, that might bring them to choose an aborthion. I consider myself a Right leaning moderate, but I am pro-choice when a pregnancy is in the first trimester. Beyond that, I consider the right to choose no longer exists, unless the life of the woman becomes undeniably endangered. It does not take more than a week or so to know whether you can/are willing to, love, nurture, and raise a child to adulthood. Roe v Wade will never be overturned, unless the Court wants millions of women protesting on the steps leading up to their lofty chambers.

August 09 2010 at 8:29 AM Report abuse +7 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to ettu's comment

Why? Because it's again election season and it's a polarizing issue, just like gay marriage. People believe one way or the other, and it is used to mobilize voters and get them outraged over something. Even though once the election is over the issue will again go away, people don't "get" that. They get riled up and go vote for "their guy" who will fight for "their rights" over all others, but come December, that issue is off the table again. You'd think after this merry-go-round had already circled a hundred times or more that they'd get the picture that it's a non-issue red herring being used to manipulate the voting populace, but it never seems to lose its momentum. Frankly, it's an embarrassment on the world stage that we still fight over such things as this. For an "advanced society" we are painfully repressed and antiquated in much of our social thinking.

August 09 2010 at 10:11 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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