America is in need of a revolution! "I am Irish woman! Hear me roar!" Perhaps in this columnist's daughter's lifetime, there will be a female president of the United States.
Virginia Jane McCarthy lived quite a colorful life. One of five kids born to an Irish American family in San Francisco, she is said to have met her husband while waitressing at a Howard Johnson’s.
“I’ll marry you,” she reportedly told her future husband, “but I won’t do any housework.”
And this was in the 1950s.
McCarthy, who died in late September at the age of 92, went on to become an author and activist whose convictions landed her in prison following a protest at a Washington state submarine base. She later became a leading advocate for victims of domestic violence.
If you went to hear her speak, however, you might have a question about her name -- “Ginny NiCarthy.”
As her New York Times obituary noted, “She later changed her surname to NiCarthy, using an Irish prefix that means ‘daughter of’ rather than ‘Mc,’ which means ‘son of.’”
To paraphrase Helen Reddy, “I am Irish woman. Hear me roar!”
It’s an interesting time to read about an Irish American rebel like Ginny NiCarthy. Whatever you think of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, it surely says something about the status of women in our culture that a guy like Trump (and, true, millions of women voters) prevented the U.S. from having its first female president.
And he may do it yet again. That is, if one woman (Nancy Pelosi) does not succeed in impeaching him, and he moves on to run (possibly) against another woman, Elizabeth Warren, in 2020.
Indeed, with all of the impeachment news, it was easy to miss this item a few weeks back.
Democrats are planning “to revive the Equal Rights Amendment in Congress, embarking on what they hope is a final push to add the nearly century-old measure to enshrine equality of the sexes into the Constitution,” the Times noted.
This new push for the ERA is not the result of folks in Congress waking up one day and saying, “Hey, you ever notice that women kind of got a raw deal in this country?” It has to do with a political victory for Democrats in Virginia, the state legislature of which may become the 38th to approve of the ERA -- hitting the magic number needed for a constitutional change.
Except that a deadline to hit this number technically passed already. In 1982!
Legal experts, according to the Times, “debate whether Congress’s deadline was ever constitutionally valid.”
Great. This sounds exactly like what we need in this country. A fierce debate about gender. And the Constitution. During a presidential election.
Sadly, though equality is a noble goal, enshrining it into the Constitution creates its own set of problems. The discussion of which often makes it a lot easier to avoid a much more unpleasant discussion about inequality, and not just between men and women.
For now, though, perhaps it’s best to simply shout out all those incredible women who fought and survived and thrived, ERA or not. Like Ginny NiCarthy. And all the figures Irish American journalist Gail Collins writes about in her new book No Stopping Us Now: The Adventures of Older Woman in American History.
And then there’s Kay McNulty. She was born in Ireland, where her father was “imprisoned for his affiliation with the Irish Republican Army,” Sara Novic writes in her own new book America Is Immigrants, which features short, fascinating portraits of dozens of immigrants, as well as illustrations by Alison Kolesar.
McNulty and her family eventually moved from Ireland to Philadelphia. “At the time McNulty knew only Gaelic but excelled in school and became one of three women in Chestnut Hill College’s class of 1942 to graduate with a degree in mathematics,” Novic writes.
She went on to play a central role not just in harnessing computers during World War II, but in the development of computer technology in the 20th century.
The ERA may or may not pass. A woman may or may not become president in my or my daughters’ lifetime. None of which can drown out the roar.