I don’t care if you’re a blue girl in a red state or a red girl in a blue state or if you’re purple or yellow or green. What truly matters is that you have some understanding and appreciation for how important it is to vote. And that you do it, if for no other reason than to pay tribute and respect to the amazing women in history who worked tirelessly in order for us to even have the opportunity to do so–the right to have a say in the laws that govern us. It would be a shame to waste your vote after all they did.
Do you remember this Schoolhouse Rock?
[Just in case the video doesn’t play, you can click here to watch it.]
This Schoolhouse Rock song didn’t mean anything to me as a kid. I had no clue what it was talking about. It was just another bold, bright, musical cartoon I didn’t understand and didn’t ask anybody to explain. No one ever mentioned Suffragists to me or that women weren’t allowed to vote until 1920. Adults in my world didn’t talk about politics and I don’t remember anyone going to the polls. I wouldn’t have had a reasonable frame of reference for how truly recent 1920 was anyway or why it mattered.
Thank goodness I do now. Let me tell you what the song is about, in case you don’t know.
166 years ago, in July 1848, 300 women converged on Seneca Falls, New York, for a women’s convention–the first of its kind–in a concerted effort to improve the quality of life for women. The primary organizers, Elizabeth Cady-Stanton and Lucretia Mott presented the Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions to the audience as a guideline for future action by women. They used the Declaration of Independence as a model for their document, the opening paragraphs patterned very closely after the original. The women wanted to emphasize the point that the Rights of Man must include the Rights of Women, and so “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal” was changed to read “that all men and women are created equal”.
The exclusion that the women wanted to bring before the public conscience was that the rights for which a war had been fought had not been extended to women. Cady-Stanton and Mott faced a huge task–breaking through the reluctance of women to face the reality of their status. They had no voice in making the laws they were governed by; however, they could be prosecuted and convicted under those laws. They were not permitted to a trial by a jury of their peers because women were not allowed to serve on juries. Married women could not control their own property or earnings, or handle money. The convention at Seneca Falls is considered by many historians to be the point at which the organized fight for women’s rights began in America and the ballot became the cornerstone of the movement.
I clearly remember the first time I voted. I was 20 years old and it was a presidential election. I lived in Southern California and even though it was November, the weather was balmy and voters were lined up outside our polling place, the community center beside the lake near our apartment. Voters were cheerful and friendly. We laughed and talked and people were excited by and proud of who they were voting for. People sparred with each other but it was friendly–nothing like the vitriolic, blazingly personal debates I witness between people now. The air was electric! At the time I knew a little bit about Susan B. Anthony. I had silver dollars with her face on them, but I had no real understanding of her work and how I was benefiting from it on that day. I had never heard of her lifelong friend Elizabeth Cady-Stanton, let alone activists like Alice Paul and Lucretia Mott.
I now know that a major reason I’ve been able to use my voice to make a difference in my life is because of the women at Seneca Falls. Elizabeth Cady-Stanton and Susan B. Anthony didn’t live to see the results of their work. The Suffragists like Alice Paul who carried their work into the early 20th century did–5o years after black men in this country won their right to vote. I am so grateful to Elizabeth Cady-Stanton and her counterparts. I’m amazed by their foresight and fortitude.
It’s election time again and if you don’t think either candidate running for a particular office represents you–try a little harder. I bet you know the difference between the two cars you think you’d like to buy or the phones you’d like to upgrade to. Do your own research instead of listening to sound bites or letting other people think for you. Figure it out, exercise your hard-won right to vote, and don’t complain about politics if you decide not to.
There is no way I would not exercise my right to vote. Even though I love going to the polls, this year I tried something different and voted absentee so I could sit comfortably on my couch and take my time with my ballot.
Voting absentee was pretty great too! I am always excited to be a part of the democratic process and I encourage you to be a part of it too. Go make history. Go participate in the process and celebrate how lucky you are to be able to. Like it says in the Schoolhouse Rock song from back in the day, Right On–Vote on!
To get a quick education on the story of the later activists I encourage you to watch one of my favorite movies–a very powerful, beautifully made HBO movie called Iron Jawed Angels. This accurate and moving film tells the inside story of what was truly a very difficult battle. I have tremendous respect and admiration for the Suffragists featured in the story. You can get the movie through Amazon or queue it up on Netflix.