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Exceptional Internet Story The Memo: Special Report: Status of U.S. Women by Rita Henley Jensen, Jennifer Waldref, Sharon Johnson, Allison Stevens, Cynthia L. Cooper, Marie Tessier, Lorraine Orlandi, Women’s eNews




(WOMENSENEWS)–The Women’s eNews team has written The Memo on the status of women in the U.S. We plan to hand-deliver it to both conventions–yes, put it the hands of the delegates–and promote it everywhere staff and volunteers go.

THE MEMO: A Status Report on U.S. Women

Here are the items in The Memo. 


  • The gender gap in wages has been frozen since 2002 at the level of women earning 77 cents for every dollar men earn. Some women’s groups estimate that official gap is actually much wider. Sexual harassment, meanwhile, is unchecked and the cracks in the corporate glass ceiling are still leaving hundreds of women wounded.
  • Rep. Rosa DeLauro, a strong fair-pay advocate, says 2009 will bring advancements for women’s wages.
  • Barriers to Employment: The United States is one of two countries where women’s labor force participation is actually dropping. Many pregnant women report being fired. Parents of only 1 in 7 eligible children receive child-care assistance. Women are overrepresented in the ranks of those leaving paid employment to care for others.

  • When welfare was overhauled in 1996, single mothers lost a safety net that protected them. Rep. Gwen Moore is trying to change that in Congress.
  • The percentage of single mothers neither working nor drawing cash assistance surged to more than 30 percent in 2005 from under 20 percent before the welfare overhaul in 1996.
  • Reproductive Health:

  • Birth control costs skyrocket, abstinence-only education projects continue to fail, sexually transmitted diseases soar and abortions become more difficult to obtain for many. Meanwhile, the United States is ranked 41st among 171 countries in maternal death rates.
  • Rep. Carolyn Maloney was once blocked by Bush officials at a policy meeting. Now she’s ready to block Bush’s policies from going any further.
  • Violence:

  • Homicide is a leading cause of traumatic death among new and expectant mothers. One federal study estimated 20 percent of female college students are sexually assaulted during their undergraduate years. 
  • Rep. Loretta Sanchez says despite hard times she’ll push to maintain funding for anti-violence programs, which are needed even more during a recession. 
  • Homophobia:

  • Rep. Lois Capps is working to secure equal rights for lesbians by championing bills to add protections from violence and ban discrimination.
  • Lesbians continue to live without the legal protections that full civil rights could provide, such as access to the benefits of marriage. 

The Plan for The Memo

Women’s eNews delivers The Memo–a series of six key stories–to our readers via our Web site and e-mail subscriptions. It will offer a status report on U.S. women: our health, wealth, safety and autonomy.

And then we will take it to the next level.

Women’s eNews staff and board will hand deliver The Memo to participants at the national Democratic and Republican conventions–we have asked to put it in the delegates’ welcome packets–and our reporters will ask follow-up questions at the numerous public forums they attend and cover. We won’t be shy.

We also will sponsor a public forum on the issues raised by The Memo. Our bloggers are now in Denver for this week’s Democratic convention and they will move on to Minneapolis for the Republican convention in early September.

Our staff, board members and volunteers will be wearing “Get the Women’s eNews Memo” T-shirts with the link to The Memo’s Web page. And we will continue to explore ways to get everyone on the same page as The Memo.

We will need your support to get The Memo reported, written and delivered. Airfare, desk space at the conventions, booth rentals, printing and materials all add up. Please support this effort and donate now.

Rita Henley Jensen is founder and editor in chief of Women’s eNews.