In his new book, A Call to Action, President Jimmy Carter has brought women’s rights to the forefront. It is an important issue as he himself writes: “I have become convinced that the most serious and unaddressed worldwide challenge is the deprivation and abuse of women and girls…” (pp. 3)
Carter is not the first president to fight for women in society. In 1917, suffragists picketed Woodrow Wilson at the White House. These women were also beaten and arrested. Carrie Chapman Catt and the more moderate group, the National American Woman Suffrage Association, negotiated with Wilson that lead to Wilson’s support for the Nineteenth Amendment.
John F. Kennedy created the Presidential Commission on the Status of Women in 1961, and the commission argued for the equality between men and women in their 1963 report. Although Richard Nixon did little to get the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) passed in Congress, he endorsed it when Congress finally did pass it in 1972. Carter himself signed a ratification extension in 1978, but the ERA failed to get ratified.
From this book, readers will get an important introduction to the topic and understand why the issue of women’s rights has made a deep impression on recent presidents and their first ladies. Bill Clinton and the Clinton Foundation have set up a Women and Girls initiative. President George W. Bush infused women empowerment and assistance programs oversees during his second term with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and once out of office, Bush created his own women’s initiative program at the Bush Institute. In his book, Carter discusses the efforts of the Carter Center and its human rights initiatives.
This leads us to the idea that it isn’t about a last name, but the power of the presidency. Because of their status, former presidents and first ladies have a means to address issues to a wide audience. Having an ex-president directly involved in a crisis does not a guarantee a solution as Carter testifies in his book. Yet, this book and these initiatives are a lasting legacy and hope to play an important part of a solution to many of the abuses women face around the world and in this country. As Carter writes, the other part of the solution must come from the support of the entire community, especially men.