From The Ducking Stool to The White House

When you consider the relative youth of America, it was not very long ago that women had no say in public affairs. One torture method used specifically against women public speakers during Colonial times was the ducking stool. It was a chair that was hung from the end of a free-moving arm. The woman was strapped into the chair which was situated by the side of a river. The contraption would then be swung over the river by the use of the free-moving arm. The woman would then be ducked into the freezing cold water. Seems like an impossibility now when so many women hold positions of power, doesn’t it? And imagine my delight when my fourteen year old, straight-A student daughter registered a complete blank look on her face when I told her that I have two tickets to hear Gloria Steinem speak next month at Kutztown University and we would make it a mother-daughter outing. She said, “Who is she? Do I have to go?”

While we do not have such torture devices as the ducking stool anymore and young women do not have a universal understanding of the women who fought to make America more equal to both men and women, we need to be reminded that there are still subtle ducking stools all over the place.
The unfair media treatment of women candidates for higher office exact a power over women equal to if not greater than the ducking stool.

By studying the experiences of women candidates we will learn from them and develop strategies that will make future women candidates more successful. Tonight, the Women’s Campaign Forum will host a gala event: The Parties of Your Choice Gala. This event will feature authors and advocates for women in the public sphere. And next month, I’ll take my daughter to hear Gloria Steinem and she’ll learn more about what women have faced and how to make her own future everything she wants it to be.

Nichola Gutgold is associate professor at Penn State Lehigh Valley and author of Paving the Way for Madam President and Almost Madam President: Why Hillary Clinton ‘won’ in 2008. http://www.nicholagutgold.com

3 Responses to “From The Ducking Stool to The White House”

  1. 1 Cherry Woodburn
    March 11, 2010 at 1:58 pm

    Hi Nikki,
    If your daughter backs out I’ll go with you to hear Gloria Steinem. I heard her at Lehigh a bunch of years ago and last year at Lafayette. She’s a great speaker.

    Good post as you say there remain subtle ducking stools in women’s live. One not so subtle is servicewomen being raped by their comrades in our military. Here’s my post on it. http://bit.ly/cvWqsF and wonder if you’re interested in helping me get some publicity for raising awareness of what’s happening. Let me know.

    Again, great post and I’m interested in what your daughter says about Steinem’s speech. Cherry

  2. March 16, 2010 at 8:11 pm

    Nikki – Great blog, and thanks so much for mentioning WCF’s Parties of Your Choice Gala. It was a particularly inspirational year, and I hope that we can carry that momentum through this November. You can check out details of the Gala here, with more pics and video to come! http://www.wcfonline.org/sites/wcf/index.php/sn/PYC_2010

  3. March 17, 2010 at 9:57 pm

    Thanks, Lauren for your kind words, and the link. The gala was incredible. Here’s to the momentum! I’ll have a new commentary going up soon on the Women’s Media Center website about women candidates and communication style. We must remember in November!

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