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In our opinion: Women's enfranchisement critical milestone in march toward dignity for all

Published: Sunday, Aug. 26 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

Writing long before women's suffrage, the French social thinker Alexis de Tocqueville penned his insights on the equality of the sexes in the 1830s America he observed. Concerned about the "social inferiority" of women in his day, Tocqueville nonetheless observed that the companionate marriage he discovered in America addressed many of the issues of equal dignity.

"The Americans," wrote Tocqueville, "do not think that man and women have the duty or the right to do the same things, but they show an equal regard for the part played by both and think of them as beings of equal worth, though their fates are different. They do not expect courage of the same sort or for the same purpose from woman as from man, but they never question her courage. They do not think that a man and his wife should always use their intelligence and understanding in the same way, but they do at least consider that the one has as firm an understanding as the other and a mind as clear."

A richer culture of faithful companionate marriage could help to ensure gratitude for the hard work of nurture. It could help to re-enshrine decency, fidelity and virtue. Practiced well, it would appreciate natural difference between the sexes while striving to honor their equal dignity and worth.

The electoral enfranchisement of women was a critical milestone in society's long march toward increased opportunity and dignity for all. The work of complete enfranchisement is still in progress. May we all be more conscious of how our actions, policies and attitudes can enhance the equal dignity and worth of the women in our communities.

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