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It’s wonderful and appropriate for Wisconsin to celebrate being the first state in the union to ratify the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. We rightfully honor Wisconsin women such as Belle Case LaFollette and Theodora Winton Youmans for their roles in getting women the vote.

But we must remember that Wisconsin’s record on women’s rights is a decidedly mixed one. Our state was one of the last ones to make contraception information and products legally available to unmarried people (which really meant unmarried women, because men of any age and marital status were able to get condoms, no questions asked).

It wasn’t until 1976 that Wisconsin’s law defining contraceptives as “indecent articles” was repealed. Finally, Wisconsin women -- at least those who had health insurance or could afford to pay privately, which is an important and sad distinction -- could legally obtain birth control for themselves.

One hundred years ago our state gave women the vote. Less than 50 years ago, it gave them the right to control their own fertility. Some in our country reverse the latter accomplishment. Should we be proud of Wisconsin’s role in women’s suffrage? Yes. Should we fall over backwardspatting ourselves on the back? Definitely not.

Kathy Miner, Madison

Capital W: Plug in to Wisconsin politics

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