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'Reawakening and Recycling' - An Ancient Call for Action

13/11/2015 11:11 GMT | Updated 12/11/2016 10:12 GMT

Melinda Gates raised a timely alarm this week (Financial Times, Comment, 9th Nov 2015, "Investing in our families is a vital part of the economy") about properly accounting for women's unsung and undervalued economic contributions to society.

It's a long-standing affront. But her notion is not new. Nor is the strategy for change she mentioned, nor its recommended principles.

Eighty years ago a women's empowerment pioneer, Amelia Earhart, made a similar call for action. Today she is reportedly a candidate on the US Secretary of Treasury's shortlist for the new face of a revamped US currency note (Financial Times, Noteworthy, 19th Jun 2015, "US asks public to help put a woman on new $10 bill").

Ms Gates wisely stated in her column that "Recognizing the unfair burden being placed on women is the first step to addressing ..." the inequities women face today. Also, "Reducing the amount of time and effort women spend doing tedious chores is possible with labour-saving technologies." So true on both points.

Yet, five generations ago Ms Earhart had already conceived and activated the very same strategy Ms Gates indicated economist Diane Elson today advocates. Plus, in a recorded 1935 radio speech broadcast across America, Ms Earhart drew conclusions nearly identical to those Ms Gates declared in her Nov 9th article (an excerpt follows, but you can listen to Earhart's entire speech via http://www.wnyc.org/story/87007-today-in-history-amelia-earhart/):

"This modern world of science and invention is of particular interest to women, for the lives of women have been more affected by its new horizons than those of any other group. Profound and stirring as have been accomplishments in the remoter fields of pure research, it is in the home that the applications of scientific achievement have perhaps been most far-reaching, and it is through changing conditions there that women have become the greatest beneficiaries in the modern scheme. Science has released them from much of the age-old drudgery connected with the process of living. Candle dipping, weaving and crude methods of manufacturing necessities are things of the past for an increasing majority."

Compared to 1935 the lives of most women, and men, have largely improved. But consider the likely extent of positive changes Ms Earhart might have helped usher-in for women worldwide had she not vanished without trace during a 1937 Pacific Ocean flight.

Imagine that Ms Earhart's long-lost aircraft was rescued from the abyss of time. It could serve as a timeless global reminder of what was possible, in a bygone era, for a lone woman whose self-belief and actions were unshackled by past norms. That iconic time machine might also help compel societies to face and banish the demons still haunting public discourse and private practices that perpetuate ancient wrongs.

Were, too, Ms Earhart's intrepid spirit resurrected she would no doubt quickly cast her eternally-optimistic eyes upon the landscape Ms Gates described this past Monday. Her tearful conclusion would be that much of womankind's daily toil is still largely unrecognized and unappreciated by mankind.

Amelia Earhart would then quite rightly roar "Enough!" and wholeheartedly endorse Melinda Gates' declaration that "We must act."

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