Impact

She Proclaims: Our Declaration of Independence from a Man’s World

An excerpt from the powerful new book from the best-selling author of Dear Madam Secretary

An image of author Jennifer Palmieri alongside the cover of her new book, She Proclaims

Preamble: Whereas in the course of human events it becomes necessary for people to dissolve a set of beliefs, biases and behavior that fail to recognize their inherent value and perpetuate impediments to achieving all that their God-given rights and talents entitle them to.  

We proclaim, as women who continue to live in a world in which we are undervalued and underrepresented in positions of power relative to men, our declaration of independence from a man’s world.  

In July of 1848, four women sat at Mary Ann M’Clintock’s kitchen table in New York to draft the Declaration of Sentiments and accompanying resolutions that were to be presented at the women’s rights Convention at Seneca Falls later that month. Seated alongside Mary Ann M’Clintock was women’s rights leader and Seneca Falls organizer Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Mary Ann’s grown daughters, Elizabeth and Mary Ann.

These women gathered at a time when they had virtually no power in the eyes of the law. Giving women the right to vote was considered so radical an idea that even some of the movement’s most ardent supporters argued against including a demand for women’s suffrage in the Seneca Falls’ resolutions. The women who drafted the Seneca Falls document believed their situation to be dire and the language of the Declaration of Sentiments reflects both their desperation and certainty in their cause — arguing that women in America had been “aggrieved, oppressed and fraudulently deprived of their most scared rights” as citizens. There was no precedent to their actions; all they had was faith in their own abilities and in the inherent righteousness of their crusade. Stanton brought some draft versions of the Declaration document with her to the M’Clintock home for the women to work from, but they were not satisfied with what they had produced until one of them had the idea to model the Declaration of Sentiments on the Declaration of Independence itself.

Seventy-two summers earlier, Thomas Jefferson had committed to paper the radical concept that it “was self-evident that all men were created equal,” so Stanton and the M’Clintock women amended Jefferson’s sentence to include the truly universalizing words “and women.” “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men and women were created equal.” Using the founding fathers’ own words and formula to validate women’s equality positioned it as a natural progression of the principles upon which America was founded. Despite their efforts, another seventy-two years would pass before women finally secured the right to vote on August 18, 1920. But it was through the perseverance of those women and their successors that the right was eventually secured, and in their honor I choose their declaration as a model for my own.

Our dependence on the old male models and our belief that following their path would eventually work out for us has ended up sustaining the very power systems that keep women from succeeding.   

I want to be clear that our declaration is not against men. I do not believe that men are my enemy, nor do feel like my life has been one long exercise in subordination to men. Like a lot of women, I learned a lot observing how men work, had many male mentors, and gained some invaluable skills as I attempted to model myself after them. Those skills I acquired served me well and will continue to help all of us going forward. But I believe we have gone as far as we can following a man’s model. 

After decades of making so many strides, we reached a plateau. A man’s path turned into our rut. Our dependence on the old male models and our belief that following their path would eventually work out for us has ended up sustaining the very power systems that keep women from succeeding.   

The time has come for the women of America to make a new Declaration.

The time has come for the women of America to make a new Declaration. One hundred years after women won suffrage, we still live in a world were men hold the vast majority of power and women are consistently undervalued relative to men. Despite all women have done to fit in, and all that well-intended men have done to help us along the way, we have only been able to rise so far in this man’s world.  It is no longer serving us well. We should not continue to prop it up by following its rules.  It is time to declare our independence and proclaim the start of an exciting new era for women — an era in which we break from a world that does not value us enough and create a place where we are able to reach our full potential. I see millions of women in America waking up to the same realization — this man’s world was never our destination. It was never ours. We have always been visitors here and we are moving on to create our own space. 

Jennifer Palmieri is a writer and one of the most accomplished communications advisors in politics today. The author of the number 1 New York Times bestseller Dear Madam President, Jennifer was White House Communications Director for President Obama and head of Communications for the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign. She has been on the frontlines of American politics for 20 years and one of a few people with a hands-on, working knowledge of the complex media environment operating in the U.S. today. Her second book, She Proclaims: Our Declaration of Independence from a Man’s World will be published in July of 2021.  She is also a guest host of Showtime’s The Circus and a contributing editor to Vanity Fair.