My grandmother was born in 1908. She was born into an America that did not grant her mother the full rights and responsibilities of citizenship. As Rosamund lay in her swaddling clothes, a first generation American-born baby girl; women were suffering slander, ridicule and violence to achieve the sacred right of suffrage. This struggle began at our nation’s birth, continued through our Civil War, and finally was granted as a political appeasement after the final War. WWI. The War that ended all Wars.
Well, that’s another story. But out of that devastation came the XIX Amendment, which established womens’ right to vote.
One of my earliest memories was being with my parents at the polling place. They must have been busy, raising seven children. They must have been tired, both having worked all day. But they radiated a sense of seriousness and excitement. My husband, whose parents bore some risk in presuming to vote while black, remembers that his mother and father always found a way to get to their voting place. They didn’t have a car, but they would walk or take a bus.
I never took the right to vote for granted. My kind wasn’t allowed at the start of the century of my birth.
In 2004 I went to New Hampshire, which has same-day registration, to get people to the polls. I talked to a grey-haired woman my own age. She had never voted. She was just off work, her clothes were worn, no one had told her that her voice mattered. It was one of the coolest American things I had ever done to tell her that she could register and vote today. This is Democracy– that rich or poor it’s one citizen–one vote.
So it’s not to get sanctimonious about it, but I’m surprised that any woman would decide to run for office after a lifetime of ignoring her civic duty.
DAVIS, Calif. Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman said Tuesday that it wasn’t until she was a chief executive in Silicon Valley that she realized why she should vote after sitting out elections for decades.
Whitman sought to explain her spotty voting record for the first time after delivering a speech to a Republican women’s group.
“I was focused on raising a family, on my husband’s career, and we moved many, many times,” she told reporters. “It is no excuse. My voting record, my registration record, is unacceptable.”
Yeah, it is. They say that patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel. But when you can’t claim patriotism, you can always discover a need to spend more time with your family.
I’ve always wondered about women like Phyllis Schlafly. Telling other women to get back into the kitchen while she jets around the country from conference to conference. She reveres the family. I wonder if her own family ever gets to see her.
Meg Whitman had time for a career but voting wasn’t a priority. Sadly, this is true for the majority of Americans. Maybe she can represent them.