On August 18, 1920 my grandmother was just barely 3 years old, only a few short months before, her home state of West Virginia had ratified the 19th Amendment. In less than a year, her mother would pass away after a long illness, never knowing that her daughters would grow up in a very different world than she.
The amendment passed into law on August 26, 1920, and the US joined other nations in affirming a woman’s right to vote. By the time she was 21 (the legal voting age in her state until the age was lowered nationally to 18 in 1971) she was already wife and two-time mother.
Throughout her lifetime, my grandmother worked and raised children – she tended bar, built airplanes and made sure her kids had what they needed in a hard scrabble town in the back hills of West Virginia. Whether or not she ever cast a vote, I don’t know. It’s not something she ever talked about. Taking a realistic look at her life, I highly doubt she voted, and if she did, it was rarely. Simply put, time and household duty would have prevented it.
By the time I reached "adulthood", the voting age had been lowered to 18 and girls in my high school laughed at the outdated stories of teenagers babysitting for mothers so they could go vote, and holding special voter registration drives for women. We all thought that was a thing of the past. We all thought we’d come so far.
I recall seeing all the Virginia Slims ads of the time: You’ve come a long way, baby! And thinking they were silly.
Twenty years later, I wonder if we’ve really come that far. Women are still outnumbered greatly at the polls. Women still have a hard time getting to the polls because of household and child-rearing duties. Funny, I never hear of men missing the vote because Little Johnny was ill, or they couldn’t find a sitter for Little Suzie.
Around my office, it’s not uncommon for folks to come in late, or leave early in order to vote – oh, strike that. It’s not uncommon for the men to do so. Most of the women say they’re "too busy" or "have too much to do to take that time off" or something like that.
I’ve known plenty of women who don’t vote because: they’re too busy to understand the issues, all politicians are liars anyway, what difference does it make – our votes don’t really count, and other reasons. I know plenty of men who claim that as well, however, more men seem to feel it’s their "duty" to vote, whereas women simply feel frustrated by it all.
To which I say, knock it off!
Find a news site and read up on the issues, there are tons of them out there.
Yes, all politicians are probably liars to some extent, but there are the "lesser" evils, and there are some who are truly good people. Only by voting for them will they come into "power."
Yes, our votes do count. You can argue Electoral College with me all you want, the bottom line is – each vote can and does make a difference. Imagine if more people had actually voted in that now infamous election?
If nothing else, think of women past, who did not have this right… Think of those for whom it was a new thing, and not taken for granted… And above all, think of women yet to come, who need strong, active and participating role models.
The ability for women to vote is a relatively new thing – newer than the automobile, airplanes, cameras, Coca Cola, light bulbs, telephones, and a host of other "modern marvels" – and yet here we are, already taking this precious thing for granted…
It’s time to stop and think!
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