Earlier today, MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger convened a virtual conversation with Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (CT-3) to observe Women’s Equality Day, the centennial of the 19th Amendment, which expanded suffrage to women. As the COVID-19 pandemic wears on, the gaping holes in our nation’s safety net are illuminated each day, particularly for populations who already experience inequality. Women — particularly women of color and single mothers — have felt the effects of the pandemic more acutely than the general population.
Mia Hubbard, MAZON’s Vice President of Programs, reflected on the connections between the fight for women’s suffrage one hundred years ago and the continuing struggle to expand the safety net and lift women out of poverty.
“As COVID-19 has ravaged our country, it has thrown into stark relief the realities of hunger in America, the limitations of our government systems, and the inequalities that have persisted for generations. It comes as no surprise that those who are most affected by the crisis, and our federal government’s lackluster response, are women — particularly those who are working on the front lines as the majority of service workers, women who are single heads of households, and women who are struggling to find work to pay for basic necessities like food.”
Congresswoman DeLauro, a longtime advocate for women’s equality and the nutrition safety net, reflected on individuals and moments in history that have stood out in the 100 years since the 19th amendment.
“History is full of trailblazers — like the first woman elected to the House of Representatives, Jeannette Rankin. Or Frances Perkins, the first woman to hold a U.S. Cabinet Post. And Shirley Chisholm, the first African American Woman elected to the House of Representatives. It is critically important for us to be thinking about the people who have stood up, fought for, and created the opportunities for us to move forward. There is yet more to come.”
Abby Leibman, MAZON’s President and CEO, remarked on the important role of women’s leadership in advocacy:
“We know that single mothers make up a huge percentage of the people struggling with hunger in America. We need to connect the dots. Our work as women is to make what seems strange to become accepted as normal. If you lift women out of poverty, out of the devastation wrought by a recession, then the entire economy benefits. Women are a part of that economy.”
Representative DeLauro concluded with a powerful message:
“Women’s role in our society has been undervalued. Women need to be valued and respected. What we do is level that playing field, making sure that women have the same rights in the workplace as men. […] We need to go back to the values of who we are as a country. No one in this country should go to bed hungry. That is a result of policy decisions that are made. It’s the policies we choose to make that will make a difference.”
The pandemic has made it clear how many Americans live in economic precarity — one missed paycheck away from hunger. Many of them are women, caring for their families while maintaining a low-wage job as essential workers, women who have to make impossible decisions each day to feed their families and keep them safe during a seemingly unending pandemic. We at MAZON are grateful for Congresswoman DeLauro’s leadership and will continue to advocate for policies that advance equality for all.