Monday, April 27, 2015

On votes for women, raising hell, and your $20

How rare and amazing is it to set your sights on what you suspect might be your dream job, aggressively pursue said job, and find that in practice you love it even more than you could have imagined?

Well, it happened to me. And then I quit. Because something fell into my lap and I felt a sense of duty mixed with a sense of impending FOMO.

I would win the listserve while traveling across Iowa in a 12-passenger van on day five of my new job. I can't offer you any solid life advice because I don't know yet whether this crazy and borderline idiotic thing I just did will pay off or not.

But I do know that there is a reason I'm here. It's the thing that led me to my dream job (did I mention I loved that job?) and to this new situation and will probably ultimately drive me to do something even more outlandish at some future point. And that is that 95 years ago, Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the 19th Amendment (thanks, Harry T. Burn - google it) and [many] women gained the constitutional right to vote.

I think about this a lot. So much, in fact, that my only tattoo says "8.18.1920." I just can't get over the fact that less than 100 years ago, a bunch of badass women who were told to leave the politics to the menfolk decided they were going to be both seen and heard and fought like hell to demand a voice in their government. Women my age (27) and younger pulled together an epic suffrage parade on the day of President Wilson's inauguration, strategized with workers and society women, picketed the White House with the President's own words on democracy, met with senators they couldn't vote for, got arrested, went on hunger strikes in prison. And in the end, they won.

They made history - and now I feel I owe it to them to raise some hell. Or at the very least, vote.

Three options for what you could do next:

1) Watch the movie Iron Jawed Angels. Hillary Swank as Alice Paul (aka the most inspiring historical figure you've never heard of) is one of the best things that has ever happened in American cinema.
2) Go see what the Women on 20s campaign is all about, because as I have just explained, learning about women who made history makes this generation of women feel like we can do it, too. Obviously I voted for Alice Paul (see above).
3) Make sure everyone you know is registered to vote & has what they need on Election Day. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, the number of voters disenfranchised in 2014 in North Carolina by harsh new voter ID laws and restrictions on voting hours may have been the margin of victory. What?! We cannot let that kind of thing happen in this country.

Do you also feel strongly about voting? Have a favorite historical figure who inspires you? Are you looking for someone to argue with about whether the National Woman's Party or the National American Woman Suffrage Association got the strategy right first? You should definitely tell me.

Thanks for reading & thanks to my friend Laura for telling me the Listserve existed. Read her newsletter, Everything Changes, because it is fabulous. I think you can subscribe through the Awl.

Council Bluffs, Iowa/Brooklyn, New York

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