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Mothers of Ascension

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Other campaigns have gathered speed in the past year, too. MomsRising has been particularly active on the issue of fair pay, coming out in support of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act. The act seeks to reverse a ruling by the Supreme Court in the case of Lilly Ledbetter, a supervisor at Goodyear who was paid as much as 40 percent less than her male counterparts over two decades. In the 5-to-4 decision against Ledbetter on May 29, the Supreme Court ruled that employees have just 180 days from the fi rst discriminatory paycheck to seek redress, and no right to challenge subsequent inequitable paychecks. MomsRising members were inflamed,
feeling that—as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote in her dissent—“cause to suspect that discrimination is at work develops only over time.”

One of MomsRising’s more colorful actions earlier this year concerned the Fair Pay Restoration Act. When John McCain reacted with the infamous statement that women needed “education and training,” MomsRising sent out an e-mail asking members to send in their resumes. Over 10,000 resumes were delivered to McCain’s office by volunteers wearing bright sashes that read “Magnifi cently Overqualified Mother,” or MOM. “Fifty-six percent of college graduates are women right now,” Rowe-Finkbeiner argues, “so that is not the key problem here. The key problem is that women aren’t paid equal wages for equal work, still. So this law is very much needed.”

The McCain incident stirred up strong feelings, and signs indicate that they’re not going away. When MomsRising members came out in force for an Equal Opportunity rally in support of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act in Washington, DC, on July 17, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi did a call-out to the organization, saying that the reason the act would pass is because “this is a family issue and Moms are Rising!”

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At Omega, participants discuss how to broaden the movement by attracting a diverse range of women. “Do we have someone who’d be willing to go on the Bill O’Reilly show?” asks one woman in a group feedback session. “Maybe we could start online moms’ groups by baby age,” offers another. Other suggestions include offering
low-cost health insurance, sending new mothers a “welcome wagon” of e-mails, and launching monthly MomsRising book and movie clubs across the nation, which Rowe-Finkbeiner says would “really spark more on-the-ground engagement.”

“A lot of women’s organizations in the past have been seen as being about white, middle-class women,” says Rowe-Finkbeiner. “We have to remedy that.” Judging by the overwhelmingly white faces gathered at Omega, success on that front might be slow so far, but Blades says the organization is having good results reaching out to other demographics through faith communities and potlucks.

With the presidential election fast approaching, Blades and Rowe-Finkbeiner see an opportunity to grow the organization by getting its issues into the forefront of the national debate. Its 501c(3) status prevents it from campaigning directly for a party or candidate, but since MomsRising aims to be inclusive and nonpartisan, that’s not an issue. Rather, Rowe-Finkbeiner sees the organization’s mission as twofold: pushing to change the stale terms of the national debate while giving members the tools to discern for themselves where candidates stand on the issues.

To do this, MomsRising is bringing wit and style—hallmarks of third-wave feminism—to the debate. One example is its “Presidential Bingo” game, where participants check off an issues card while watching televised election debates. (How many times did Obama or McCain mention maternity leave? Or fair pay?) There’s also the “Don’t Get Sick” game, an interactive quiz on the website where viewers click to shoot tissues at giant noses in between learning factoids about sick leave (“Nearly 50 percent of private-sector workers have no paid sick days”). Other features include a countdown to the election, candidate forums, and candidate video blogs.

So far, MomsRising is seeing great returns. On July 10, Barack Obama appeared on NBC’s “The Today Show,” where he answered questions about his economic agenda to support women. Obama reiterated MomsRising’s statistics on the wage gap, then went on to mention paid family leave, support for childcare, and overturning
the Supreme Court decision on Ledbetter v. Goodyear. An e-mail circulated by MomsRising the next day began, “Finally, our issues are on center stage, where they belong—and are being addressed by a presidential candidate!”

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