This week marks the 90th anniversary celebration of a historical achievement in the land of the free and the home of the brave: a woman’s right to vote. I celebrate that ratification of America’s 19th Amendment along with many other women in this country, including family members.
My own enjoyment of that particular “right” makes a total of five generations of women in my family who have had that privilege altogether. Yet of those five maternal generations, the right to vote has not always been embraced as fervently by all or for every election. Let me explain.
When the 19th Amendment finally was ratified in our wonderful country, my maternal great-grandmother was but a young woman in the early 1900s, barely at the threshold of voting age. As a woman born and raised in the Deep South, she was not encouraged to exercise that privileged option by her male-dominated household, but she wasn’t discouraged to do so, either. Instead, she was encouraged to focus on the daily duties of life at home and in her marriage.
Later in life, as the years passed and her life became her own, so to speak, she was at retirement age before the feminist movement became a force that sought to focus more female attention on voting rights and social responsibilities. My great-grandmother was on a course in life not to be influenced at that juncture by bra burning or demands for rights. She never did embrace it, actually.
Her daughter, my grandmother, followed suit, eschewing a concentrated focus on voting rights and political discussions for gardening and quilting, as well as raising her family of four. Her daughter, my mother, was a married woman herself during the ’60s, when voting rights were more of a passionate cause even in the South. But alas, like the females in her family before her – although for different reasons – she didn’t immediately embrace voting, either, becoming an advocate for it later in her life after dealing with numerous personal tragedies.
But in spite of the lack of what some might conclude to be social responsibility (voting), each female in my family chose to exercise their right to vote, or not vote, as they decided – or, as in my mother’s case, the circumstances in their lives dictated. I respected their choices and their reasons for it.
Coming from a different generation, however, and one in which a realization of the need to vote is much more critical, I embrace this opportunity to exercise a right fought for so hard by previous women. A right still denied to some in other parts of the world.
My own adult child is even more passionate about this right than I am, forgoing lunch and dinner hours to trek across town for each and every election in our jurisdiction. We both feel that voting isn’t so much a “right,” however, as it is a privilege to be exercised and extended to all people around the world, male or female.