Election 2014: Women Divided in Ohio Races as Democrats Urge Equal Pay

Photo: Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum, licensed under Creative Commons
Photo: Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum, licensed under Creative Commons

The year was 1972. The Equal Rights Amendment, a 24-word proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution giving women equal rights, had been passed by Congress and was sent to the states for ratification. Feminists marched in the streets for its passage and their anthem was, "I am woman, hear me roar, in numbers too big to ignore."

At first, it looked like it would happen easily as 22 of the necessary 38 states ratified it in the first year.

But the opposition organized quickly, and in 1977, Indiana became the last state to ratify it. Since then, the legislation has been reintroduced but hasn't gone anywhere. And that's frustrating for Columbus area resident Carolyn Casper. She was fighting for equal rights back then -- and she's still fighting against gender inequalities.

"Something that comes from the moment you pop out and they wrap you in a pink blanket," Casper said. "It's a thing you carry and I don't think that's how it's meant to be."

There is a proposal in congress that would mandate equal pay for equal work. But it is stalled by the Republican majority. And that's something former Democratic U. S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi lamented when she visited the Ohio Statehouse for a women's rally earlier this year.

"We only need 17 votes to make this happen, 17 votes," she said.

Pelosi was part of a bus tour of Democratic women this summer that went to various cities throughout the Midwest, trying to get women to vote for Democrats on the pay equity issue.

But it's not just about passing laws to make equal pay for equal work a reality. Some women, like Marti Ridley, of Columbus say women need more affordable child care options. Ridley said she couldn't afford to work outside the home when her two children were little.

"I did not have a stable support system to help take care of my children and could not afford the cost of child care out of pocket on my own," Ridley said.

For Ridley, the Head Start program provided her with the opportunity to get a good job and improve her family's economic condition.

But Democrats aren't the only ones talking about women's issues. Gov. John Kasich is too in this new ad.

The talking points on the Republican side are different. Chris Schrimpf with the Ohio Republican Party says women are most interested in the economy. He said Kasich has improved it in Ohio. Schrimpf said the governor has also taken action on other important issues for women.

"The governor and others have done tremendous things for women from expanding autism coverage to increasing access to medical health insurance," Schrimpf said. "And especially the governor's work on human trafficking has been nationally recognized."

Schrimpf noted Kasich is leading big with women in major polls recently. So which women's issues are most important to voters…the ones Schrimpf notes or the ones the Democrats are pushing?

Democratic State Sen. Charleta Tavares, an outspoken advocate for women's issues, said the answer to that question depends on each individual woman.

"It depends on what is going on in her life," Tavares said.

Tavares and Casper said it's time for women to look at their life and figure out what is important to them then vote accordingly. For too long, Casper said, women haven't voted in their own self-interest.

"They're still playing by the rules that the women in the 50s did," Casper said.

Women account for more than half of Ohio's population. They are a valuable voting block if they vote together. But because women are so different when it comes to priorities and perspective, that potentially powerful voting block is split, much like it was in the 1970s.

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