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September 19

Compiled and Written by Irene Stuber
who is solely responsible for its content.
This version of Women of Achievement has been taken
from the 1998 email distribution of Women of Achievement and Herstory.
The full text of this episode of Women of Achievement and Herstory
will be published here in the future.

UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali in a message to the fourth World Conference on Women


QUOTES by Lucretia Mott and Catherine MacKinnon.

Text of Boutros Boutros-Ghali's Speech

"There is a deplorable trend towards the organized humiliation of women."

Boutros Boutros-Ghali sent a speech to the fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing which was read Sept. 4, 1995. (Flu was given as the reason for his personal non-attendance.)

The speech sanitized some facts and was self-serving, but is still an excellent review of the progress women have made in the past 50 years on the world stage - and serve as a fairly good summation of today's problems. The entirety of Boutros Boutros-Ghali's remarks follow at the end of this episode. It is worth reviewing.

Beginning in 1993, Boutros-Ghali was heavily criticized by the U.S., led by U.S. ambassador to the UN Madeleine Albright, for not doing what he said about women's rights. (Talking the talk but not walking the walk.) When his renewal as head of the UN came in 1996, the U.S. led by Albright and backed by President Bill Clinton refused to support him. After a lengthy debate, a new Secretary General was elected.

Under the new UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, several women were quickly appointed to top positions in the UN including Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland, as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights http://www.hrw.org/... one of the UN's highest ranking positions. She immediately affirmed her commitment to struggle against gender discrimination.

Angela King is the Secretary-General's Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women, Carol Bellamy heads UNICEF http://www.unicef.org/, and Sadako Ogata leads the UN refugee agency http://www.unhcr.ch/refworld/refworld/unhcr/hcspeech/menu.htm

On 01-27-1998, former Norwegian premier Gro Harlem Brundtland was elected as director general of the World Health Organization (WHO) http://www.who.ch/. At 58, a physician, and grandmother of eight, GHB has moved with startling single-mindedness to change WHO that has been known as a bureaucratic do-nothing into a speedy and meaningful worldwide force.

WOA suggests the website of the United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/ as the best single source regarding the Beijing conference, as well as the conferences that led up to it, complete with reports, etc. It is the single greatest site regarding the international efforts on behalf of all women.

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B. 09-19-1855, Katharina Klafsky, Hungarian dramatic soprano, the most outstanding of her day, who was particularly notable as an interpreter of Richard Wagner's operas.

B. 09-19-1865, Rosetta Sherwood Hall, physician and missionary who, although born in the U.S. lost her American citizenship when she married a Canadian. She worked in Korea for 35 years, first as a wife and then as a single parent. RSH established a number of hospitals, encouraged the training of Korean women as doctors, and developed a braille-like system for the Korean language.

B. 09-19-1876, Vera Charlotte Scott Cushman, U.S. YWCA leader who served on the board of directors 31 years. She was an amazing fund raiser under whose co-direction about $170 million was raised to finance 140 "hostess houses" to house and feed women who were involved in World War I war work. Lodgings for women without a MALE escort were hard to find as well as dangerous before the modern women's movement.
      Working with Grace Hoadley Dodge, she led the efforts to unify YWCA activities in New York City and was its first president. She also headed the very important War Work Council of the YWCA. The Y sent teams of women to France to succor the troops - they were the original dispensers of doughnuts for the doghboys - as well as helping at hospitals and nursing stations. The work of the YWCA during World War I has been sadly overlooked by historians. She also set up the essential Hostess Houses where women such as nurses, and telephone operators, etc., involved in war zones were housed and fed.
      She was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal, an honor few other women ever received. She was highly active in international Y work as well as a devoted feminist. VCSC was described by her contemporaries as beautiful and she married into wealth which makes her devotion to the work of the Y and feminism all that more unusual.

B. 09-19-1889, Sadie Delany, one of the Delany sisters who at the age of 102 and 104 published their memoirs Having Our Say that became an overnight sensation. Her sister Bessie, born 09-03-1891, was a dentist.

B. 09-19-1894, Rachel Lyman Field, author, playwright, poet, winner of Newberry Medal for Hitty, Her First Hundred Years (1930). Her All This and Heaven Too (1938) became a runaway best seller and successful movie.

B. 09-19-1915, Elizabeth Stern, Canadian-born American pathologist whose breakthrough studies of cervical cancers have changed the disease from fatal to one of the most easily diagnosed and treatable. Her studies showed that a normal cell advanced through 250 distinct stages before becoming cancerous and thus is the most easily diagnosed of all cancers. She was the first to linking a virus in herpes simplex to cervical cancer. She was also the first to report the linkage between oral contraceptives and cervical cancer. In 1965 she was appointed professor of epidemiology at the University of California at Los Angles. ES was one of the first pathologists to work on the progression of a cell from normality to cancerous.

B. 09-19-1918, Penelope (Ruth) Mortimer, British (Welsh) journalist and novelist who explored domestic relationships. Her most noted novel The Pumpkin Eater (1962) has the protagonist obsessed with pregnancy during the breakup of her fourth marriage.

B. 09-19-1929, Marge Roukema, U.S. Congressional Representative from New Jersey, 1981 to present. According to the official congressional biography, MR is chair of the Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit, and the Committee on Education and the Workforce. "From her committee assignments, Roukema has pursued such legislative interests as job training in the private sector, child support, welfare reform and family leave policy."

B. 09-19-1930, Rosemary Harris, British actor.

B. 09-19-1933, Ingrid Jonker, South African poet who spent time in an orphanage after her mother's death. Understandably, her poetry often deals with loss. She is noted for her love poems however. During her lifetime she was compared to Sylvia Plath and she also committed suicide at 32. Her most noted work is Rook en Oker (Smoke and Ochre) (1963) and her Selected Poems (1968) offer English translations.

B. 09-19-1943, "Mama" Cass Elliott, highly popular lead singer of the 1960s and 70s. Rumors of her early death because of drugs are unfounded. She was overweight and she died of a heart attack.

B. 09-19-1945, Donna Christian-Green, U.S. Representative (Donna MC Christensen) to the 105th Congress from the Virgin Islands. According to her official biography, she graduated from George Washington University School of Medicine in 1970. She served as a practicing physician 1975-1997; medical director, St. Croix Hospital, 1987-1988; Territorial Assistant, Commissioner of Health, 1988-1994; Acting Commissioner of Health, 1994-1995; and was delegate to the 1984, 1988, and 1992 Democratic national conventions.

B. 09-19-1949, Twiggy (Leslie Hornby), described as thin as a twig, this British woman became an international fashion supermodel and actor.

B. 09-19-1950, Joan Lunden, U.S. broadcast journalist. Her mother, a widow, worked as a real estate agent to support her two children.

Event 09-19-1992, 300 years after they were excommunicated and executed, Rebecca Nurse and Giles Corey, victims of the Salem witchcraft hysteria were readmitted to the First Church in Salem, Massachusetts.

Event 09-19-1998: Melissa Etheridge and her again pregnant partner Julie Cypher received a special award from the Human Rights Campaign, a gay and lesbian oriented national organization. In accepting it at the annual Washington, D.C., awards banquet, ME, a noted rock star, (Julie is a screen editor) said:
"Julie and I would like to say that, actually, we feel a little awkward and a little confused about this award. We don't feel like we've done anything extraordinary by loving each other and in by deepening that love by bringing a beautiful child into this world, you know? I mean those things are so rewarding just in themselves and people do that everyday, every single day. I mean what's the big deal, really? But, actually, when we take a moment and we lift our heads out of this heaven we have here on earth, we remember sometimes in some places, still, love can be considered fearful or strange or even dangerous. So, yes, maybe some of you would see our simple family to be courageous. But I'll tell you what: Julie and I, we can see a time in our lifetime where these kind of awards will just no longer be necessary."
      Bailey Jean (8lbs, 10oz) was born 02-10-1995 and opened the public's eyes to the increasing numbers of lesbians who are chosing to have children as her birth is announced in almost all major publications and the pregnancy discussed by the news magazines, complete with cover photos. The couple was together more than eight years at the time of Bailey's birth and said they planned to have more children together.
      Lesbians having children has been tagged by the radical religious right as a danger to the moral fibre of our nation and some sects are attempting to set up legal rulings by which birth mothers who are lesbians will automatically lose custody of their children.

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      "As the poor slave's alleged contentment with his servile and cruel bondage only proves the depth of his degradation, so the assertion of the woman that she has all the rights she wants only proves how far the restrictions and disabilities to which she had been subject have rendered her insensible to the blessings of true liberty."
            -- Lucretia Mott (1793-1880) who with Elizabeth Cady Stanton organized the first Women's Rights convention that was held in Seneca Falls, NY, in 1848.

      "...Male dominance is perhaps the most pervasive and tenacious system of power in history...because it is metaphysically nearly perfect.
      "Its point of view is the standard for point-of-viewlessness, its particularity the meaning of universality. Its force is exercised as consent, its authority as participation, its supremacy as the paradigm of order, its control as the definition of legitimacy. Feminism claims the voice of women's silence, the sexuality of our eroticized desexualization, the fullness of 'lack', the centrality of our marginality and exclusion, the public nature of privacy, the presence of our absence."
            -- Catherine MacKinnon, Signs, (Summer, 1983).

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Boutros Boutros-Ghali's Speech

[The following is the UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali's speech to the fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing. It is worth reviewing for its review of the past 50 years of women on the world stage - and serves as a fairly good summation of today's problems. (Ignore the self-serving remarks.)]

"Procuring the equality of women and men, in law and in fact, is the great political project of the twentieth century. A crucial role in the realization of that project has been entrusted to the United Nations. We are meeting to take that great enterprise forward into the twenty-first century and beyond: to consolidate the legal advances, to build on the political understandings, and to commit ourselves to action.

"Thus States made, in the United Nations Charter, a clear commitment to the rights of women: '...to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women... '

"This was more than a statement of high ideals about the world of the future. It was a commitment to ensure that men and women have and enjoy the same rights. And - unlike any other commitment made in the Charter - this was a commitment which could be measured.

"And it pointed the way forward in other ways, too. That commitment was inserted in the Charter because women's non-governmental organizations worked with government representatives to put it there.

"The then First Lady - Eleanor Roosevelt - of the United States was instrumental in that process.

"Since its very founding, the United Nations has actively encouraged Member States to honor their commitment.

"In the early years, from 1945 to 1962, the United Nations concentrated on securing equality for women under the law. In 1946, the General Assembly established the Commission on Human Rights and the Commission on the Status of Women. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted in 1948. In these ways, the United Nations sought to build on the legal basis for the equality of women set forth in the Charter.

"In a second phase, from 1963 to 1975, the international community began to recognize the importance of development in achieving the advancement of women. The focus of the Organization's work included the economic and social realities of women's daily lives. In 1967, the Declaration on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women was adopted.

"In 1975 the first global conference on the status of women was convened in Mexico City. It proclaimed 1975 as International Women's Year. The Conference led to the elucidation of a three-part theme - equality, development and peace. This became the basis of the Organization's work in the upcoming years, and of our work today.

"Between 1976 and 1985, the United Nations observed the Decade for Women. The Decade was the third phase of United Nations work for women. This period brought the crucial new recognition of women as active agents of, and contributors to, the development process.

"1979 was a landmark year. The United Nations General Assembly adopted, that year, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. It was the first international legal instrument to define discrimination against women. It was, in other words, an international bill of human rights for women. But it also stressed the importance of action, including action in the fields of employment and education, to ensure women's progress in fact as well as in law.

"The Decade for Women's major conferences - Copenhagen in 1980, Nairobi in 1985 - offered a forum in which women's organizations had a voice in shaping the work of the United Nations. The Decade also brought agreement on the need for practical measures to improve women's lives. The adoption of the Nairobi Forward-Looking Strategies for the Advancement of Women to the Year 2000 was another milestone in the advancement of women.

"They included guidelines for national measures to promote women's participation in efforts to promote peace, and education for peace. They singled out for special attention the need for measures to help women in special situations of distress."

"Over the past decade, we have seen a fourth phase of United Nations activity for women. A continuum of global conferences has worked to define the new global agenda. These conferences have made it clear that no progress is possible without the full and equal participation of women and men: in promoting peace, in safeguarding the environment, in securing sustainable development, in human rights, in population, in health, in education, in government, in the home, and in civil society.

"The 1990 World Summit for Children established goals for health, education and nutrition for women and children.

"The role of women in safeguarding the environment, and in promoting sustainable development, was recognized at the United Nations Conference on the Environment and Sustainable Development, held at Rio de Janeiro. Women were seen as having a central role in implementing Agenda 21.

"The Vienna World Conference on Human Rights reaffirmed the universality of human rights. It was understood that women should exercise the same rights as men on the basis of equality.

"The Cairo International Conference on Population and Development recognized the central role of women in population and development. Its consensus language reflected a concept of reproductive rights that is firmly based on human rights instruments. It also set forth the linkage between women's empowerment and development.

"The World Summit for Social Development, meeting at Copenhagen in 1995, adopted a Declaration and Programme of Action. One of its central principles was the full integration and participation of women in spurring social development and eradicating poverty.

"Today, we celebrate fifty years of unceasing effort, spearheaded by the United Nations, to advance the cause of women. One of the themes of our conference is equality. Equality before the law is being achieved in many countries. But equality in fact remains an elusive goal in all countries.

"Equality of dignity is far from being achieved, with discrimination on the basis of gender still widespread. Real and concrete steps are still required - to ensure equality of opportunity in education, and equality of access to health systems, to jobs, and to political power.

"Women work longer hours, for less pay and in lower status jobs, than men in almost every country. Seventy per cent of the 1.3 billion people living in poverty in the world are women. Women and their dependent children form the majority of the 23 million refugees and 26 million internally displaced persons in the world.

"When the Charter was signed, no State had elected a woman as head of state or government. Since then, a total of twenty-four women have been elected to heads of states or governments. But there is far to go before we have equality between women and men in senior government posts.

"In 1994, there were no women ministers in twenty-five States. Overall, only 5.7 per cent of the world's cabinet ministers were women. In no country were women in the majority as elected members of parliament.

"There were exceptions: in Sweden there was parity between men and women in ministerial posts. The Caribbean is the only region where more than 20 percent of senior government officials are women.

"In the United Nations itself, progress is being made. As Secretary-General, I have appointed women to head several UN programs, bringing the total number of women executive heads to five.

      [Ed. Note: At this point in his address, large groups of women at the conference commented and laughed loudly about the boast of raising the number of women executives to five.]

"The General Assembly took an historic step recently when it elected the first woman judge to the International Court of Justice.

"I have given clear instructions that the goals of the Charter for gender equality in the United Nations itself should be strictly followed. I have approved action plans within the Organization to foster a gender-sensitive working environment and to ensure that the Organization addresses the gender aspects in all of its work.

"The role of women in peace is another theme of this conference. In United Nations peace missions, women remain a largely untapped resource. Missions should be designed to take account of the extraordinary potential of women in crisis situations.

"Violence against women seems to be increasing. It should receive the unanimous and firm condemnation of the entire international community. National studies in ten countries estimate that between seventeen per cent and thirty-eight per cent of women have been physically assaulted by a partner.

"An estimated 100 million girls suffer genital mutilation. More women are today suffering directly from the effects of war and conflict than ever before in history. There is a deplorable trend towards the organized humiliation of women, including the crime of mass rape.

"We will press for international legal action against those who perpetrate organized violence against women in time of conflict.

"The burden of rural women in developing countries is well-known. The United Nations, in Geneva in 1992 convened the first international conference on rural women and development. We should be able to say of our development efforts, that not only is development necessary for rural women, but what is good for rural women is good for development.

"This perception has grown and become widely understood. Women - their lives, their roles, their aspirations - are the key to development in every dimension. Equality, peace and development must reach every woman on earth.

"When the rights and hopes of women in all these fields are advanced, so will all human society come to benefit.

"And another theme of this conference is development. The international community has recognized the great potential of women as agents of consensus and peaceful change. The challenge is to harness the energy, ideas and skills of women, not only in the re-building of formerly war-torn societies, but also in promoting conditions of economic and social development generally.

"This Conference is a milestone in the history of United Nations work for women. It is the culmination of a chain of global conferences. It embraces the issues covered by all of them.

"This Conference is a call to action. The Platform is comprehensive, and challenging. It takes an integrated approach to a wide range of issues. It cuts across all of the concerns - economic, social, cultural, and political - of the United Nations system.

"As we go forward, the partnership between government and civil society will be crucial. But the Platform will not become reality unless that partnership now extends into the implementation stage.

"Neither government decrees nor the isolated acts of small groups of citizens will be enough to make the Platform work. Both must work hand in hand. The partnership must be mobilized at all levels: the family, the local community, and the State.

"Government can garner resources. Civil society can reach down to engage all members of society. The movement's theme - "think globally, act locally" - is more relevant than ever.

"There is a growing awareness that attitudes as well as behavior - both of individuals and of institutions - must change to take account of the real rights and real needs of women.

"Let us not forget ; the progress we make is measurable and it will be measured. Future generations will hold us accountable. They will look for concrete signs that Beijing, in 1995, was followed by real action."

      [Ed. Note: The speech was not well received with the women at Beijing who knew first hand of Boutros-Ghali's personal problems regarding the introduction of women of power into the UN hierarchy. They did not believe his excuse of the flu as the reason not to attend.]

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