January 21, 2012 / Opportunity

Voting For Women Thanks to Women


The opinions expressed herein are those of the author, and not necessarily those of The New Agenda.

I think the term “hero” is used way too often and way too loosely these days. People will name somebody famous and call him (or her) a hero and, when pressed, they don’t even really know why. “I dunno. I guess because he’s cool?” Not really anything with a lot of substance.

The political season can become very contentious and, unfortunately divisive. Raised voices and blood pressures are not uncommon and, on occasion, I am no exception. Any time major elections roll around, however, my heart softens a bit when my thoughts turn to those whom I consider true heroes: the women who fought so hard for my right to vote.

Alice Paul, Ph.D. was a suffragist who worked tirelessly to continue the efforts of Susan B. Anthony to secure the right for women to vote, and she was the original author of the Equal Rights Amendment (which still has not passed). In 1917 she organized a small group of women to protest in front of the White House for women’s voting rights. They were arrested and thrown in jail. While they were incarcerated, she and some of the other women went on a hunger strike. They were force-fed with feeding tubes, and prison officials tried to have her transferred to a psychiatric hospital to be declared insane. This garnered so much attention in the press that President Wilson told Congress it was a necessary part of the war effort to pass an amendment. The 19th Amendment passed in 1920.

I had the pleasure of spending some time with my favorite aunt, Aunt Maggie, during the holidays. She shared a lot of  family history with me, including her grandmother’s involvement in the suffrage movement. I knew that my great-grandmother lived in Chicago during the early years of her marriage. What I didn’t know was that she bundled up her infant daughter (my grandmother) and took her to downtown Chicago to march in a demonstration for women’s right to vote.

My dad took my sister and me to register to vote on our eighteenth birthdays, and neither one of us has missed a chance to vote since. My dad continued the tradition with our niece, taking her to register two years ago on her eighteenth birthday. This was only possible because less than one hundred years ago a small group of women led by Alice Paul thought that in the future our opinions would be just as important as those of men, and risked everything to make sure I could do that.

My great-grandmother may not have been thrown in jail, but she stood firm in her convictions and went against what so many other people wanted for her. She demanded that she and all of her female descendants be granted the right to have a say in how this country is run. Every time I drop my envelope in that little box, I will say a small prayer of gratitude for her and Alice Paul. Voting and being grateful are the very least I can do to honor and acknowledge their efforts.

Sadly, it looks as though we won’t have a woman to vote for this time around. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if our generation’s great-granddaughters thought of a woman in the White House as a non-issue, the way we now think of voting?  We still have a lot of work to do.

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