Before getting into the issues, please permit me to briefly identify myself. I'm a white male, age 74, who has spent his life working for social change in many different ways, often behind the scene. As early as 1955, I tried to break through Alabama's segregation laws, to no avail. When the Civil Rights Movement reached Nashville, TN, where I was living at the time, I was involved from the first planning meeting. Jim Lawson, who counseled students at Fisk and Maharry in Gandhi's nonviolent techniques, had been a former classmate of mine at Vanderbilt. I knew and corresponded with Martin Luther King, Jr. In the late 1960s, I was the first male employed by the women's movement in New York, helping its director organize their first national women's conference. In 1970, I helped organize and implement the First Earth Day in New York City. I'm now in my eleventh year as caregiver for my mother who is almost 98, and for the past decade I've been struggling on behalf of elderly rights. Much of my career has also been in the arts, and I have a new book coming out next spring titled Art and Spiritual Transformation.
The following concerns two issues of immense importance – the immediate future of women's movements, and the abuse of the elderly, especially elderly women;
My first major point is that we are poised at this time for another great movement forward on behalf of women's rights, organizations, and leadership roles. I've spent most of my life studying the laws and energies which govern all things, including our lives (I'm working on a 1,000 page book on the subject), and one of these is the Law of Cycles. History advances by cycles.The Cyclic History of the Women's MovementFirst Cycle: 1787-1798
It was during this period that Mary Wollstonecraft wrote the first great feminist manifesto, A Vindication of the Rights of Women, 1792. In France, upheaval on behalf of women was brought about by the revolutionary street orator, Théroigne de Méricourt and Madame de Stael and Madame Roland whose salons became centers of political activity and debate. A demand for recognition of women's "inalienable rights" were made to the Assembly by Olympe de Gouges and supported by the women's political organization Amis de la Vérité which argued for women's education, civil rights, and the right to divorce.Second Cycle: 1845-1856
During this period the women's suffrage movement developed in the U.S. under the leaderships of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, Lucy Stone and Susan B. Anthony. The first Women's Rights Convention was held at Seneca Falls, N.Y., in 1848, leading to regular women's rights meetings. Stanton formulated the first organized demands for women's suffrage, even as Harriet Taylor wrote The Enfranchisement of Women in England. Margaret Fuller wrote Women in the Nineteenth Century, the first major work of American feminism; Lucretia Mott published Discourse on Women; Amelia Bloomer began the first prominent woman's rights newspaper; and Sojourner Truth delivered her famous "Ain't I a Woman?" speech before a women's convention in Akron, Ohio.Third Cycle: 1896-1907
Women's rights movement now becomes more militant and international. There was the delivery to the British parliament in 1902 of 37,000 signatures demanding women's right to vote. The Women's Social and Political Union in England was founded in 1903 under the leadership of Emmeline Parkhurst. 1904 saw the founding of the International Woman Suffrage Alliance and the political reorganization of the National American Woman's Suffrage Association by Carrie Chapman Catt in 1905. In 1906 the term "suffragette" was first used. Also in 1906 Emma Goldman co-founded the anarchist monthly Mother Earth. Galvanized by Nannie Helen Burroughs speech "How the Sisters are Hindered from Helping" to the National Baptist Convention, the largest African-American women's organization, Women's Convention was founded. Charlotte Perkins Gilman wrote Women and Economics in 1989, calling for economic and social freedom for women. Marie Curie in France was the first woman to receive the Nobel Prize in 1903 and in London around 1905 Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group emerged, casting off the restraints of Victorian social behavior. In 1906, Susan B. Anthony died, having proclaimed in her final public speech, "Failure is impossible."Fourth Cycle: 1960-1972
The most recent major cycle of advancement for women's rights and influence took place in the era beginning in 1960. Betty Friedman wrote her landmark work The Feminine Mystique in 1963. NOW was founded in 1966, the New York Radical Women and Redstockings in 1968-69, and the Women's Action Alliance in 1971. Many writers and activists, such as Doris Lessing, Kate Millett, Germaine Greer and Gloria Steinem, emerged during this period. Advances in Civil Rights also take place in the same time cycles.The Desperate Plight of Elderly Women
This brings me now to the second and perhaps most important reason for my writing. You may know that Chief Justice Rehnquist wrote an opinion a couple decades ago in which he stated that the U.S. Supreme Court would not extend civil rights protections to the elderly or the handicapped – that is, to some of America's most vulnerable citizens! It doesn't take a genius to figure what that was about.
Every year in the U.S. more than 8,000,000 elderly citizens are stripped of most or all of their property, investments, and life's savings and, in many cases, even of their Social Security. In many instances greedy family members and scam artists are behind these thefts, but in the vast majority of cases probate judges, attorney, and court-appointed guardians and conservators are the thieves.
I've fought a nine year battle on behalf of my mother, who was stripped of every cent my parents spent fifty years saving up for their old age – and this less than a month after dad's death. I had a small but very successful international business which I could easily operate from home, enabling me to take care of my parents and run my business at the same time. When the court tried to take mother from my care and place her in an institution where, according to her primary care physician, she probably would not have lived more than six months, I successfully blocked the court's efforts. In response, my business was seized and shut down, my livelihood destroyed and my financial assets seized – a major violation of civil RICO law. The probate judge said to me, "You can have your business back when you give me physical custody of your mother." "That will be never," I replied. So I lost everything as well. Mother and I have lived almost entirely on Social Security since the beginning of 2000, while judges and attorney have pretty much picked her estate dry. Mother was never allowed access to an attorney or a single one of her legal rights, nor was I.
In nine years we've never been granted a due process hearing in any court of law, never been allowed to present any evidence or challenge the illegal actions against us. We were even locked out of our own home for twenty-seven months with nothing. In all, I fought off six attempts to take mother from my care. I don't need to go through our story. I'm writing a book about it.
According to the data I've been able to dig up, it appears that close to 90% of the elderly who have their property and assets seized die prematurely as a direct result. That means that greed is killing off more senior citizens in the U.S. each year that all the Jews exterminated by the Nazis in the whole of World War II. I'm appalled at the fact that the conscience of the American people is not outraged. But part of the problem is that the elderly, unlike those who fought in the Civil Rights and Women's Movements, are no longer able to march and fight for themselves. They need US to do it for them!
I'm in my eleventh year as full time care provider for my mother and late father, but the vast majority of family caregivers are women. If there are both sons and daughters in a family, the task of caring for elderly parents typically falls on daughters. Furthermore, when the assets of the elderly are illegally or otherwise seized, this only increases the financial burdens on those who must care for them, and it prevents parents who want to pass something along to their children from being able to do so. Everyone loses except the thieves. Sometimes, for one reason or another, children can't or don't take care of their parents. But if we choose not to care for those who gave us life and raised us, the message we're sending to our own children is, "When I'm old, just forget about me." In many ancient and Eastern societies the elderly remain as part of the family. This is another change that we must make in our society – find better ways to care for our parents instead of leaving it up to the courts.
The elderly can rarely protect themselves, rarely know how to deal with corrupt judges, attorneys, scam artists, or greedy relatives. They cannot march on Washington in huge public demonstrations, and it is imperative that some larger, established, powerful organization such as the National Organization for Women take up this issue and realize that it is in the best interest of all women, young and old, to make the protection of the elderly a major cause within the women's movement. Younger women will someday in the position of these elderly women and just as vulnerable to exploitation if nothing is done.
Based on the statistic I've been studying, given the current rate of financial exploitation of the elderly by society, and assuming that the average woman lives to age 80, there is a one-in-three chance that she will become a victim of financial rape in her final years! Moreover, whereas the elderly are not protected under civil rights laws, elderly women would come under the protection of women's civil rights, which means an organization would be well positioned to help protect these rights.
I'm not a particular religious person in the conventional sense, but I am a highly ethical and deeply spiritual person who has devoted a lifetime to helping others and trying to do my part to create a better world for future generations. From that perspective, I appeal with all my heart and soul to take up the cause of the elderly, especially elderly women. As a man, I would not resume to suggest how best to do this. In my own mind I find myself playing off the Boston Women's Health Collective 1969 book, Our Bodies, Ourselves, with something like: Our Mothers, Ourselves.
With the incoming energies to drive forward the next phase of the women's movement, adding such a cause would prove both timely and successful. As a male, I have nothing to gain from this. It is for my beloved mother and her suffering and all women and mothers everywhere that I want to see the women's movement expanded to include their welfare, rights and future.
Shame on America if we sacrifice any more elderly generations to the greedy and powerful. We need the compassion women bring to all causes in solving this problem. The financial exploitation of an elderly woman who cannot protect herself is as surely rape as any physical rape and almost always leads to an early death. Please take up their cause, I beg you. Only when we all work together will the "better world" we all hope for come into manifestation.
Finley Eversole, Ph.D.
1300 Beacon Pky E., # 305
Birmingham, AL 35209