Letting Mom out of the kitchen… and sister too!

This high-powered election season has been largely overshadowed by the advent of the so-called Tea Party and the rapidly changing situations in the Middle East. Almost going unnoticed is the dramatic rise in female participation as major players.

For instance, more women are running as candidates for governorships of various states than ever. The most heralded, of course, is the state of California’s Meg Whitman, billionaire CEO of one of the largest Fortune 500 Companies.

Whitman has launched a well-financed campaigned against Jerry Brown, longtime California political figure, who has held just about every public office in the state, including the governorship itself.

Moreover, we are seeing that women are running for other top state and local offices throughout the country. In some of those top positions, we even see women running against other women.

An example of that can be seen right here in the Sixth District of Minnesota, where Michele Bachmann and Tarryl Clark are going head to head. Also, in California veteran Congresswoman Barbara Boxer is being challenged by Carly Fiorina.

Like Meg Whitman, more and more women are gaining top positions in the private industry sector, but that too is a relatively recent phenomenon. It certainly has not always been that way.

As a matter of fact, not so long ago it was perfectly legal to blatantly discriminate on the basis of sex. It was legal to have ads for help that read, “Male Only Wanted.” It was legal to fire an airline flight attendant if she became pregnant. If an employer decided to pay a woman less than a man for the same job, that was considered his prerogative.

Many of the younger generation are inclined to think that those conditions are just relics of a long-ago generation that just evolved naturally as time passed. Nothing could be further from than truth. It took years of fight and struggle to become reality.

The engine that changed that entire concept was the one that thousands of Blacks in the cotton and tobacco fields of Alabama, Mississippi, and other states of the Deep South paid for with blood, sweat and tears, resulting in passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

More precisely, it was one word stuck in Title VII of that landmark legislation banning segregation and discrimination based on race and “sex” in the U.S. that we are now seeing unfold as women seek more and more heretofore-forbidden jobs.

That is just one of many beneficial gains that the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s rendered to America.

Matthew Little welcomes reader responses to mlittle@spokesman-recorder.com.