Today, an article posthumously celebrating two remarkable American women caught our eye. A full 100 years before forced-marriage entered the U.S. national consciousness, Arizona suffragists Pauline Schindler O’Neill and Frances Willard Munds were already fighting to protect American women and girls from harmful marriage practices:
In 1913, Munds became one of the first women to serve in the Arizona Legislature … She … introduced a bill to set the minimum age for marriage to 16 for women … and a bill to increase the tax exemption for widows. Both bills passed. O’Neill served two terms as a state legislator. She worked to prevent prostitution, forced marriage and marriage of very young women to older men.
Last autumn, a Newsweek article introduced the results of the first U.S. national forced-marriage survey, shocking the American public and lawmakers who were unaware of the degree to which harmful marriage practices persist in the United States. The survey, conducted in 2011 by The Tahirih Justice Center, identified as many as 3,000 cases of known or suspected forced marriages encountered by respondents over the preceding two years, and Tahirih Executive Director Layli Miller-Muro told Newsweek, “We’ve already learned enough in the survey to tell us we’re just hitting the tip of the iceberg.”
Kudos to the brave and influential Ms. Munds and Ms. O’Neill who, while perhaps best known for advancing women’s suffrage, were well ahead of their time in tackling an array of critical women’s issues.