“The young women of today—free to study, to speak, to write, to choose their occupation —should remember that every inch of this freedom was bought for them at a great price… the debt that each generation owes to the past, it must pay to the future.”
~ Abigail Scott Dunaway
On my way to yet another day of jury duty this morning, I learned from a piece on NPR that June 4th is the anniversary of Congress passing the 19th Amendment and sending it out to the states to be ratified. As the reporter intoned that the pre-19th amendment United States was a country in which women couldn’t vote, testify in court, own property on their own, or–of course–serve on a jury, I was struck by the irony of my less than enthusiastic attitude toward serving this week.
But what hit me harder, is that 1920, the year the amendment finally won approval from the required number of states, is simply not that long ago. First, I thought about the fact that my grandmother was born two years prior to that milestone. Then, I realized that my great-grandmother, a woman I knew and loved as a child, was a mother of four before she had the right to cast a ballot.
It’s almost incomprehensible to me that a woman who was so in charge of her family, so capable of running her home, was deemed incapable of forming a rational opinion regarding who should lead her county, state, and country. Ma-Ma made a mean lemon meringue pie, the best hot rolls imaginable, and even mastered making my favorite cherry jello with apples that stayed white and crisp inside. She also took time to vote. I remember clearly her discussion with my great-aunt about the upcoming presidential election in 1976 and her support for Jimmy Carter.
Yep, that’s right. I’m proud to say that I come by my party affiliation through a long line of Democrats. Strong men and women who cared about our country, just as I do. And, as we enter the next phase of this election campaign, I’m going to focus on the admonition above from Abigail Scott Dunaway. Indeed, I owe a debt to the women who came before me, who fought for rights I not only take for granted but sometimes complain about. It was good to be reminded of what I should have been appreciating all along. And now, I’m going to make sure that I continue to vote in a way that insures that my own children enjoy the freedoms I treasure, whether that be the right to vote or the right to control their own bodies. But most of all, my hope is for a future where the United States will once again be held up as a model of civil liberties and democracy, a country that values the free exchange of ideas over a culture of fear and name calling. Because that’s worth fighting for, for all our sakes.