Author Tom Mach Reveals the “War on Women” — From a Historical Perspective

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According to Tom Mach, historian and author of a new historical novel entitled Angels at Sunset, the controversial “war on women” allegation making the news today may or may not be a strictly political stance taken for the upcoming 2012 presidential election. Nevertheless, his research indicates that there is a historical basis for believing that the 14th, 15th, and 19th Amendments did not resolve the problem of inequalities between men and women. Furthermore, he contends, the proposed Equal Rights Amendment which would have guaranteed women's rights was never ratified by three-quarters of the states.

Angels at Sunset by Tom Mach

The real question involving women in this presidential election year is—should another attempt be made to reintroduce the Equal Rights Amendment and seek ratification?

In April, NPR’s Audie Cornish indicated that operatives for the Obama and Romney campaigns debate each other over the question of a war being waged on women. “But,” Cornish maintains, “what’s really going on is a war for women’s vote." According to a Chicago Tribune article, those supporting the existence of such a “war” claim that the Republicans are proposing a personhood amendment, ultrasound bills, and legislation that may even criminalize birth control. Writing for South Florida’s Sun Sentinel, Jonah Goldberg asserts that this is a “manufactured controversy.” However, Tom Mach, the author of Angels at Sunset,argues that there is a historical basis for believing the idea of a “war on women” is not a new phenomenon.

According to the author, it is difficult to get to the truth of the matter about this “war” during a presidential election year; yet, it is worthwhile to get a historical perspective on progress women have made since the 19th century. As mentioned in Angels at Sunset, women were deprived of more than the right to vote. They were discouraged from speaking in public, going to college serving on a jury, and having a profession. If they were married, they were not allowed to sign contracts and could not even have their own children if divorced.

What Mach found problematic and which was brought out in Angels at Sunset was the evident inconsistency between two amendments. The 14th Amendment to the Constitution stated that "all persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof,are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside." But the 15th Amendment, which involved voting rights, used the term "male" so that while women were citizens only men could vote.

In his book, Mach described these women as being rightfully indignant. How could women be citizens and yet not have the basic right to vote for their representatives? Similarly, obscure language concerning eligibility to be a president is muddled in the “natural born citizen” clause in Section 1, Article 2 of the U.S. Constitution. There is, of course, no such unclear language in the 19th Amendment, which clearly states that women have the right to vote.

A woman named Alice Paul was not satisfied with only the 19th Amendment. Paul, a suffragist described in Mach’s Angels at Sunset,suffered brutal treatment in a Virginia prison because she picketed the White House. After winning the right the vote, Paul drafted an Equal Rights Amendment and introduced it to Congress in 1923. The basic tenet of this bill was that “men and women shall have equal rights throughout the United States and every place subject to its jurisdiction. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.” Unfortunately, the bill was never ratified. So the real question involving women in this presidential election year is—should another attempt be made to reintroduce the Equal Rights Amendment and seek ratification?

Angels at Sunset by Tom Mach is not just another historical novel. It’s an accurate portrayal of the abuses women endured not only to get the right vote but to obtain other rights as well. Shirley Johnson, a senior reviewer with Midwest Book Review claims that Mach’s book “is somewhat like the Titanic—the movie was to the real Titanic what this novel is to the real struggles faced by women in that day.”

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