Event fetes International Women's Day with panel talk

In 1923, suffragist leader Alice Paul drafted the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, arguing that the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote did not guarantee relief from legal discrimination based on sex.

Though the ERA was introduced in every Congressional session between 1923 and 1970, it almost never reached the floor of either the Senate or the House for a vote. Instead, it was usually stuck in committee.

In 1972, the ERA passed both houses of Congress but failed to gain the subsequent 38 necessary state ratifications before its June 1982 deadline (Oregon was one of 35 states to ratify the ERA, in 1973). The amendment has been reintroduced in every session of Congress since 1982.

On March 8, 2011, the 100th anniversary of International Women's Day, legislation was introduced to remove the Congressionally-imposed deadline for ratification. Currently, efforts are underway to determine if the 35 state ratifications in the 1970s are still valid and that only three more state ratifications are needed.

On March 29, attention will focus on 'Women's Work From the ERA to the Present Day' with a panel discussion and audience participation in the Forest Grove Conversations Series at 7 p.m., in the Community Auditorium, 1915 Main St.

Panelists include former Gov. Barbara Roberts; wine industry pioneer and environmental advocate Susan Sokol Blosser; and Dr. Perla Rodriguez, principal of Cornelius Elementary School.

The event is free and open to the public. It's sponsored by the Friends of the Forest Grove Library and the Tom McCall Center at Pacific University.

Sokol Blosser is a wine industry pioneer, community activist, environmental advocate and author. Known for her leadership of Sokol Blosser Winery in Dundee, she was a forerunner in instituting environmentally friendly business practices and practicing the triple-bottom-line concept of people, planet, profit.

'Farming, and the wine industry especially, have always been male dominated,' said Sokol Blosser, 'but we've come a long way ... some big things and some little. In the '70s, it was illegal for a woman to keep her maiden name if she married.

'Now there are more women in decision-making roles, positions of responsibility and business owners - but it will take generations to achieve full equality.'

Her many individual accolades include Lifetime Achievement Awards from Women for WineSense and the Oregon Wine Board. Her memoir, 'At Home in the Vineyard: Cultivating a Winery, an Industry, and a Life,' was published by the University of California Press in 2006, and her business philosophy, 'Gracious and Ruthless: Surprising Strategies for Business Success,' appeared in 2008.

Barbara Roberts was elected the first woman governor of Oregon in 1990, serving from 1991 to 1995. During her term as governor, Roberts worked with the Clinton administration to secure federal waivers and funding for the Oregon Health Plan.

She also helped to increase the number of children in the Head Start program, secured financing for additional units of affordable housing and developed programs to help boost low-income Oregonians from welfare to the workplace.

Prior to her tenure as governor, Roberts was a member of the Oregon House and was Oregon's first female House Majority Leader (1983-84). She was elected the first female Secretary of State in 1984 and reelected to that position in 1988.

Dr. Perla Rodriguez is a first generation Chicana, born and raised in Oregon. She was raised in Eastern Oregon, and is a product of both Migrant Head Start and Oregon's public school system.

Having had her first child at an early age, Rodriguez cites her family and strong sense of cultural identity as the greatest reasons that helped her to finish school and continue on to complete her undergraduate degree in bilingual education at Boise State University. She then moved to the Portland area and began teaching in a two-way immersion program in the Forest Grove School District. She completed her master's degree at Concordia University and received her doctorate from George Fox University. She has been principal at Cornelius Elementary School since 2003.

In 2004, the Friends of the Forest Grove Library, in co-sponsorship with the Forest Grove City Library, initiated its Great American Speeches series. The motivation was to involve students in public discussions of topics of the day and provide a town hall forum on issues. Students have participated in essays and art contests on themes ranging from civil rights and discrimination to how to be an informed electorate to ethnicity in Oregon. The series was re-named Forest Grove Conversations this year.

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