When I stepped into a voter’s booth for the first time, I was filled with a sense of strength and responsibility. Growing up over the years, I had seen the rise and fall of many repressive reigns in foreign countries, and I always reflected on how lucky I was to be living in a free country. When I first learned American history as a young third-grader, I had no idea what it was like for women and minorities to not have the right to vote – the idea seemed very distant. As time went on and I matured, I became more aware of my environment and surroundings. I was exposed to the harshness of the real world – anger, hate and bigotry. And this was for the good, because I gained a powerful role model in a strong woman: Mrs. Brown, one of my high school teachers.
I had Mrs. Brown for second period AP government my senior year; I was one of 30 or so students in her class. From the first lecture she gave to the post-AP test celebration she held, I was touched by her proud nature and strong political views towards equal rights. She was extraordinarily devoted to each and every one of her students and took personal interest into all our ideas and beliefs. Often, we would just stop class and have impromptu discussions on important issues from the past as well as those facing the world today.
One subject that Mrs. Brown held very dear was the 19th Amendment, which granted American women the right to vote. She once told a story about how her grandmother had voted illegally and constantly lived in fear of retribution for her actions. When she told the story, she sat in her favorite brown chair, trying to maintain a sense of composure, but then lost control about halfway through her story. Clearly, the feminist movement had very much to her family. She continued after taking a Kleenex and said, “My grandmother lost everything she had because of what she did. She wasn’t the first woman to vote illegally, nor was she the boldest. And neither was she the most punished. However, her husband left her for a time, and even her mother refused to talk to her. She was shunned for her decision to take a stand for women everywhere.”
Listening to those words come out, I was moved almost to tears myself. Being a young white male in America, I have grown up with a sense of invulnerability; yet now I discovered that nobody has the right to vote handed to them on a silver platter, but rather it is earned. I believe that the women of the feminist movement showed extreme courage and strength for standing up for their rights, and they should be a model for all others.
Mrs. Brown is one of the few people I am proud to name as a role model; I constantly reflect on what impact her teaching has had on me.
Today, Aug. 26, is the 90th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment. The 19th Amendment was a huge step forward for American women and society as a whole, bringing us closer to the constitutional ideal of “all men are created equal.”