On this day:
1872 – Illinois becomes the first state to require gender equality in employment.
Gender equality, also known as sex equality, gender egalitarianism, sexual equality, or equality of the genders, is the belief that everyone should receive equal treatment and not be discriminated against based on their gender. Gender equality is one of the objectives of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. They seek to create equality in law and in social situations, such as in democratic activities and securing equal pay for equal work. The objective of gender equality is for people of different genders to acquire, if they so choose, equal treatment throughout a society, not just in politics, the workplace, or any other policy-designated sphere. To avoid complication, genders besides women and men will not be discussed in this article.
Christine de Pizan, an early advocate for gender equality, states in her 1405 book The Book of the City of Ladies that the oppression of women is founded on irrational prejudice, pointing out numerous advances in society probably created by women.
Further information: Shakers
The Shakers, an evangelical group, which practiced segregation of the sexes and strict celibacy, were early practitioners of gender equality. They branched off from a Quaker community in the north-west of England before emigrating to America in 1774. In America, the head of the Shakers’ central ministry in 1788, Joseph Meacham, had a revelation that the sexes should be equal. He then brought Lucy Wright into the ministry as his female counterpart, and together they restructured society to balance the rights of the sexes. Meacham and Wright established leadership teams where each elder, who dealt with the mens’ spiritual welfare, was partnered with an eldress, who did the same for women. Each deacon was partnered with a deaconess. Men had oversight of men; women had oversight of women. Women lived with women; men lived with men. In Shaker society, a woman did not have to be controlled or owned by any man. After Meacham’s death in 1796, Wright became the head of the Shaker ministry until her death in 1821.
Shakers maintained the same pattern of gender-balanced leadership for more than 200 years. They also promoted equality by working together with other women’s rights advocates. In 1859, Shaker Elder Frederick Evans stated their beliefs forcefully, writing that Shakers were “the first to disenthrall woman from the condition of vassalage to which all other religious systems (more or less) consign her, and to secure to her those just and equal rights with man that, by her similarity to him in organization and faculties, both God and nature would seem to demand”. Evans and his counterpart, Eldress Antoinette Doolittle, joined women’s rights advocates on speakers’ platforms throughout the northeastern U.S. in the 1870s. A visitor to the Shakers wrote in 1875:
Each sex works in its own appropriate sphere of action, there being a proper subordination, deference and respect of the female to the male in his order, and of the male to the female in her order [emphasis added], so that in any of these communities the zealous advocates of “women’s rights” may here find a practical realization of their ideal.
The Shakers were more than a radical religious sect on the fringes of American society; they put equality of the sexes into practice. They demonstrated that equality was achievable and how to achieve it.
In wider society, the movement towards gender equality began with the suffrage movement in Western cultures in the late-19th century, which sought to allow women to vote and hold elected office. This period also witnessed significant changes to women’s property rights, particularly in relation to their marital status. (See for example, Married Women’s Property Act 1882.)
Further information: Anti-discrimination laws
Further information: Timeline of women’s legal rights (other than voting)
Born on this day:
1931 – Burton Richter, American physicist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate
Burton Richter (born March 22, 1931) is a Nobel Prize-winning American physicist. He led the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC) team which co-discovered the J/ψ meson in 1974, alongside the Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) team led by Samuel Ting. This discovery was part of the so-called November Revolution of particle physics. He was the SLAC director from 1984 to 1999.
Life and work
A native of New York City, Richter was born into a Jewish family in Brooklyn, and was raised in the Queens neighborhood of Far Rockaway. His parents were Fanny (Pollack) and Abraham Richter, a textile worker. He graduated from Far Rockaway High School, a school that also produced fellow laureates Baruch Samuel Blumberg and Richard Feynman. He attended Mercersburg Academy in Pennsylvania, then continued on to study at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he received his bachelor’s degree in 1952 and his PhD in 1956. He was director of the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC) from 1984 to 1999.
As a professor at Stanford University, Richter built a particle accelerator called SPEAR (Stanford Positron-Electron Asymmetric Ring) with the help of David Ritson and the support of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. With it he led a team that discovered a new subatomic particle he called a ψ (psi). This discovery was also made by the team led by Samuel Ting at Brookhaven National Laboratory, but he called the particle J. The particle thus became known as the J/ψ meson. Richter and Ting were jointly awarded the 1976 Nobel Prize in Physics for their work.
Richter was a member of the JASON advisory group and serves on the board of directors of Scientists and Engineers for America, an organization focused on promoting sound science in American government.
In May 2007, he visited Iran and Sharif University of Technology.
In 2012, President Barack Obama announced that Burton Richter was a co-recipient of the Enrico Fermi Award, along with Mildred Dresselhaus.
In 2013, Richter commented on an open letter from Tom Wigley, Kerry Emanuel, Ken Caldeira, and James Hansen, that Angela Merkel was “wrong to shut down nuclear”.
In 2014, Richter was among the residents of a continuing care retirement center filing a lawsuit alleging refundable entrance fees were sent out of state. This may be the first legal complaint challenging a continuing care retirement home’s financial practices. At a hearing on September 9, 2014 in Federal Court, attorneys allege Richter read the contracts, saw significant problems, and is entitled to pursue a legal judgement concerning the use of his money.