Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Time for Change

Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Time for Change

Recently we were invited to an event at the Departmental Progressive Club but we chose not to attend as we do not support a community organization that does not allow women to be equal members.

We think this is a policy that should change, especially for an organization that has been in existence since 1927 and has the word "progressive" in its name. Also, as a predominantly African American organization, we hope it will realize that discrimination by gender is discrimination period, and should not exist in this day and age.

The website of the Departmental Progressive Club says: "Today's membership consists of distinguished individuals representative of practically all walks of life." All walks of life, except women. This week we inducted a new City Council, half of whom are women, and we just completed a council led for just the second time in Alexandria history by a woman. Could any of them be members? No. There are only auxiliary women members. Auxiliary means "a person or thing providing supplementary or additional help and support." Are women just helpmates there to provide support to men? It is an insult that is unjust and has to end. We could not attend an event at an organization that only sees women in this role.

Its website goes on to quote John Ruskin to "define the Club's mission in the past and for generations yet unborn ..." as "... that men will say as they look upon the labor and wrought substance of them. See, this our fathers did for us." What about their mothers, their sisters, their wives? Is their intention to never admit women as full members? Does the Departmental Progressive Club get a pass because they do good work in the community. For us they do not.

They are the city's oldest private social club, and they have 55 male members and 15 Ladies Auxiliary members. That tells you something right there. I have known and worked with many members of the organization, and I grew up down the block from the club. I knew my mom went to several events there when I was a kid and they have held several city council debates or forums there that I attended in the past. But I cannot support an organization today that is for men only, with women in a secondary role.

2019 holds great promise to be the “Year of the Woman.” Last year, from the Women’s March to the "Me Too" movement we exposed some of the injustices and injuries that have been done to women. This year we have the opportunity to right some of those wrongs. We elected 36 new women to Congress, a women speaker was elected in Congress for only the second time in history, and a women, Del. Eileen Filler-Corn, was elected to be a party leader (and possible speaker) in the Virginia House of Delegates for the first time in the democratic body's 400-year history. But we are still far from parity in either governing body. It is 100 years since Congress passed the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote, and next year will be 100 years since women were able to exercise that right. The word "woman" does not appear in the Constitution, and this year we have the chance right here in Virginia to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, that would ensure gender equality for generations to come. (Sign the petition at www.VARatifyERA.com.)

We hope all the City Council members, and other leaders in our community, will be part of this tremendous change, and will ask the Departmental Progressive Club to change its make up, to not only include women, but to hold them up as equals.

We are making this a public appeal as we believe this is the only way to draw attention to this issue. We trust many people are unaware of the discrepancy in the membership and will help to work to rectify this situation. As Martin Luther King said, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects us all indirectly."

Tessa Read

Boyd Walker