Madeleine Kunin: With Roe v. Wade overturned, doors are slamming shut to women

Madeleine Kunin speaks with a mother and child during a campaign swing. Archive photo

Madeleine M. Kunin, who was a three-term governor of Vermont, is author of "Red Kite, Blue Sky," a book of poetry and “Coming of Age: My Journey to the Eighties."

When I was campaigning for governor in Springfield, Vermont, I heard a voice booming out to the sidewalk from the barbershop on that street: ”I’ll never vote for a woman.”

I didn’t go inside. I won anyway.

It was the early 1980s. The world was opening up for women. We were brimming with confidence and excitement. We formed consciousness-raising groups where we spoke about our changing lives. There were so many women “firsts,” we couldn’t keep track of them.

When I became governor, I had the thrill of appointing the first woman to the Vermont Supreme Court. She brought her 4-year-old daughter and a coloring book to the swearing-in ceremony.

Nationally, the first female CEOs made it to the top in several corporations. Colleges had their pick of talented women to choose from when they appointed their first female presidents. We were curious when Bennington College appointed a young female president. Who was she? we wondered.

Door after door opened up in rooms that had been mostly occupied by men. It was men's portraits that were on the walls.

Some women, including me, were elected to the Vermont Legislature. The male power structure looked like it was crumbling.

What a contrast with today. Doors are slamming shut to women now that Roe v. Wade has been overturned. My generation never dreamed that the clock would run backwards, that we would lose what we had fought for so hard.

It is no exaggeration to say that women’s control over childbirth is fundamental to our development as human beings.

Justice Clarence Thomas predicts that restrictions on women’s lives will not stop at abortion. It’s hard to believe, but in 2022, there is a possibility that birth control (made legal for married couples in 1965) may be next on the docket.

What can young women look forward to while the doors that were opened in my generation are today slamming shut for theirs?

Only one answer makes sense. Put our feet in the doors that are slamming shut and stop them from closing. This is not the time to be an observer or reminiscent about the good old days. Although we're older and somewhat tired, we must join forces with you — the younger generation — and fight back.

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Madeleine May Kunin

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