Do it for Susan, Elizabeth, and Ida
Colleen Mondor at Chasing Ray asked me to participate in Blog the Vote, which is uniting bloggers across the web to celebrate voting, and to write nonpartisan posts about why we vote and what it means to us.
I voted early last week, and stepping into the voting booth, I had a quiver in my belly. Voting isn’t just a duty and a right…it’s a thrill.
Voting is thrilling, because for women, the right to vote is a recent phenomenon, one that we should never take for granted.
In America, it’s only been 88 years that women have had the right. (Women in the Soviet Union, Great Britain, Canada, Austria, Poland, Germany, Australia, Finland, Norway, and Czechoslovakia all won the right to vote before we did.)
In case you’re a little rusty on your women’s suffrage history, go rent Ken Burns’ excellent documentary, Not for Ourselves Alone, and read the companion book. In the book, Ellen Carol DuBois writes about the suffragettes:
“Will we forget these women again? There is that danger. When feminist vitctories are won, we get used to them very quickly. It is as if women had always been educated, always voted, always had the right to expect equality in the labor force, always had the right to expect equality in their family lives. But the truth is that each of these rights was fought for long and hard…”
Though Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton formed the National Suffrage Association in 1869, neither lived to see the amendment passed or to vote themselves.
Ida B. Wells fought for women’s suffrage and fought against the racism in the women’s suffrage movement. (If you haven’t heard of Wells, read her autobiography, Crusade for Justice, or Paula Giddings’ new biography. When Wells was 21, she refused to give up her seat on a railroad car, and bit the conductor who tried to remove her—then sued the railroad and won. This was 70 years before Rosa Parks.) A story about Ida is told in Not for Ourselves Alone:
“In 1913, when Wells attended the National American Suffrage Parade in Washington, D.C., she was told she could not march with other suffragists from Illinois for fear of alienating white southerners. Blacks were expected to march together at the end of the parade. Wells would have none of it; she waited on the sidewalk until the Illinois delegation came into view, then slipped between two white women and marched with them up Pennsylvania Avenue toward the Capitol.”
On November 2, 1920, for the first time in history, eight million women went to the polls in America. In 2004, over 67 million women voted—almost 10 million more women than men. In 2008, I hope the numbers are even higher. I’m proud—and thrilled—to be part of the legacy that Ida, Susan, and Elizabeth fought so hard for.
Visit Chasing Ray for a full list of Blog the Vote posts.