Two women in sports had significant "firsts" this week.

On April 20 U.S. race car driver Danica Patrick became the first woman to win an IndyCar Series event when she claimed victory in the Japan Indy 300 in Motegi. Patrick beat two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves by 5.86 seconds.

[See the victory win video at our website, logon to: https://womensenewsp.wpengine.com/article.cfm/dyn/aid/3578]

"Finally. This is a long time coming," said Patrick, according to the Detroit Free Press. In 2005 Patrick became the fourth woman to qualify for the Indianapolis 500. Patrick was named the Rookie of the Year for both the 2005 Indianapolis 500 and the IndyCar Series season.

Mexican golfer Lorena Ochoa became the first woman to win four consecutive Ladies Professional Golf Association tournaments in four consecutive weeks and is on pace to break the record for most wins in a single season, the Washington Post reported April 24. Sports analysts speculate that Ochoa will win a grand slam–the top four tournaments–before Tiger Woods does. Ochoa is currently ranked the No. 1 female golfer in the world and is the first golfer from Mexico–male or female–to be ranked at the top of the sport.

More News to Cheer This Week:


  • U.S. lawmakers have negotiated a $500 million increase in funding for nutrition and food stamp programs as part of the $600 billion farm bill package, Reuters reported. Although President Bush has threatened to veto the bill because of subsidy payments to farmers, he did sign a temporary extension on April 24.


  • A majority of 11 witnesses who testified before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform told lawmakers that abstinence-only sex education for students is ineffective, the Los Angeles Times reported April 24. The House review follows a December study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that showed an increase in teen pregnancy rates for the first time in 15 years. The federal government has spent $1.3 billion on abstinence programs in the past 11 years.


  • The British government wants to abolish an 18th century royal succession law that says elder daughters must give way to younger sons to become monarch. Solicitor General Vera Baird told the London Times on April 20 that the 1701 law is outdated and unfair. Queen Elizabeth II became queen only because she had no brothers.


  • Over 30,000 people attended New Orleans events marking the 10th anniversary of V-Day, a global movement to stop violence against women and girls, and raised over $700,000 for Gulf Coast women whose lives were ravished by hurricanes Katrina and Rita.


  • Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin became the first elected governor to give birth in office on April 18, the Anchorage Daily News reported. The baby boy is Palin’s fifth child.

For more information:

Senators Vow Fast Action on Wage-Bias Bill
Saudis Turn Headlights on Male Guardianship

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One day after Equal Pay Day, April 22, the U.S. Senate defeated a wage bias bill to allow employees more time to file discrimination complaints against employers, the Los Angeles Times reported. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act would reverse a 2007 Supreme Court decision that made it more difficult for workers to sue their employers.

The bill passed the House in July 2007 but was halted in the Senate on Wednesday by a Republican filibuster and 60 votes could not be mustered to end it. Taking a break from the presidential campaign trail, both Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama voted for the bill. Sen. John McCain did not vote.

Women currently earn 77 cents for equal work for each dollar that a man earns, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. African America women earn 65 cents and Hispanic women 57 cents for each dollar earned by white men.

When you factor in family labor and time taken out of the work force for caregiving, however, the wage gap widens to 62 percent, according to a 2004 Institute for Women’s Policy Research study. Looking at women’s wages over a 15-year period, the study found that women earn only 38 cents for each male dollar.

"It doesn’t only affect line workers like I was but professional people like doctors and university professors," Lilly Ledbetter, a former Goodyear employee who sued for wage bias, told the American Prospect. "It’s not right, and it’s high time for women to be paid equal."

More News to Jeer This Week:


  • Nineteen percent of the women who live in 1,000 counties included in an April 22 University of Washington study have a significantly shorter life expectancy than the rest of the country. The study concluded that diabetes, lung cancer, emphysema and kidney failure have led to a drop in some U.S. women’s life expectancy for the first time since 1918, the Washington Post reported April 22. The trend is most evident in the Deep South, Appalachia and in the lower Midwest but is not limited by race.


  • An April 22 Human Rights Watch report condemned the limited rights of Saudi Arabian women, who must have permission from a male guardian to travel, have medical treatment, work or attend school. Mothers cannot make decisions on behalf of their children. "The Saudi government sacrifices basic human rights to maintain male control over women," said researcher Farida Deif.


  • The percentage of U.S. women starting their own businesses has dropped to a 10-year low, CNN reported April 24. Men are now twice as likely as women to start up businesses, the largest gap in a decade, according to a Kauffman Foundation report. The female entrepreneurial rate dropped from 0.23 percent in 2006 to 0.2 percent in 2007.


  • Texas judge Barbara Walther, who presides in the case involving over 400 children seized from a compound for the Fundamental Church of Jesus Christ Later Day Saints polygamist sect, denied breastfeeding mothers the right to stay with children who have been taken from them, the Salt Lake Tribune reported April 28. Walther said conditions were unsafe at the coliseum where women and children are being held.


  • Ten Cuban women, self-dubbed the "women in white," were arrested while peacefully demonstrating for the release of their husbands, Reuters reported April 21. The men have been jailed since 2003 for working with the United States to subvert the Cuban government. The Bush administration condemned the Cuban crackdown on the women.


Blanca Ovelar, a retired army general and the first woman to run for president in Paraguay, lost her bid on April 18, Reuters reported. The election also ended 61 years of rule for Ovelar’s Colorado Party. Fernando Lugo of the February Revolutionary Party was elected by 41 percent of the vote.

Shanelle Matthews is a Women’s eNews intern and a recent graduate of the Manship School of Mass Communications at Louisiana State University.

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