by Gloria Feldt

"Another of those silly jokes she forwards to her whole list," I thought as I warily opened the e-mail from my friend and former U.S. Senate candidate, Claire Sargent.

But this was no joke.

Claire had forwarded a message from another long-time tiller of the women’s equality fields, Paula Cullison, who reported that when she went to AOL’s greeting cards seeking to send Women’s Equality Day greeting cards in honor of the 87th anniversary of women’s right to vote on Aug. 26, she found instead a card honoring National Toilet Paper Day.

Not to disparage toilet paper, given its importance to human comfort and cleanliness, but I was, pardon me, wiped out at the thought that AOL/American Greeting Cards offers a card for every single day in the year but absolutely nothing to recognize Women’s Equality Day.

With the run up to the 2008 elections already big daily news in no small part because the presidential field includes our first truly viable woman candidate for commander in chief, it is good to recall that America’s Constitution denied the right to vote to women and slaves when it was adopted by the Constitutional Convention in 1787.

The movement to get women the right to vote first seriously began during the 1848 Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, N.Y. It took 72 years of diligent organizing, continuous campaigning and courageous speaking out before the 19th amendment to the Constitution was adopted. Only one attendee of the Seneca Falls convention — Charlotte Woodward — was still alive by then; she cast her first vote at age 81.

Yet even in the face of allegations that giving women the vote would cause the demise of the family, and charges that women were much too emotional to be entrusted with the serious act of voting and other such nonsense, the suffragists persisted until they prevailed, and female citizens of our nation achieved that basic right of all free people: to have an equal voice in electing those who represent us in making the laws and policies that govern our lives.

I called Paula Cullison, who is president of Arizona Women’s Partnership, a nonprofit organization that funds grassroots charities that assist at-risk Arizona women and children, to ask why she had been moved to send her message around to 10 of her friends.

"What has happened," she fumed, "when one of the most important events in American history, Women’s Suffrage Day, is denigrated by American Greetings to Toilet Paper Day! As an American woman who values the right to vote, I am ashamed of this corporate giant who profits from women, who buy the majority of greeting cards."

So I decided to check other e-card services. None of the others suggest Toilet Paper Day cards for Aug. 26, but few offer cards for Women’s Equality Day. Hallmark doesn’t have one, Blue Mountain doesn’t have one though they make it easy to create your own, and 123 Greetings has Women’s Equality Day cards but they are inanely devoid of content related to the day’s true meaning.

Cullison sent her message to 10 friends who use AOL’s e-mail service and encouraged them to join the company’s web chat where they could express their dismay. AOL can also be contacted via this "Give Us Your Feedback" link.

If you use AOL, let them know what you think. If you use some other e-card service, check out whether they offer Women’s Equality Day cards. Complain to those that don’t. Thank those that do, and send their Women’s Equality Day Cards to every woman in your address book with a reminder to cast her vote in every election.

Unless women actively exercise equality at the ballot box, we lose much more than any greeting card can possibly give us — and there will be a bigger mess than we could clean up with all the toilet paper in the world.

Gloria Feldt is the author of "The War on Choice: the Right-wing Attack on Women’s Rights and How to Fight Back," and co-author with Kathleen Turner of the forthcoming "Send Yourself Roses." She is the former president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America and frequently lectures on the history and future vision for women’s rights, health and justice.

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