In high school, essentially all of us were required to take a U.S History course. Dates, figures, and movements were pounded into our heads, and more than 200 years of history were compartmentalized into about 180 easy-to-swallow class periods.
Some events were emphasized, some were mentioned, and some were deemed not significant enough to merit a spot in the curriculum. Unfortunately, one movement that history classes often barely skim the surface of is one that could greatly impact the course of events in American government if it were to be studied more thoroughly. The movement? Women’s suffrage.
The Seneca Falls Convention of 1848 that was organized by Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton is seen by most historians as the beginning of the suffrage movement. Our history textbooks tell us this much. What our history books fail to mention, however, is that by the time the 19th Amendment was passed in 1920, all but one woman who attended that first convention had died. All but one woman who began the fight for the right to vote died before ever seeing the fruits of their labor realized. Our textbooks tell us about the beginning and the end of the fight for suffrage, but leave out an overwhelming portion of the 72 years that passed in between.
Contrary to what Mary Poppins made us believe, the suffrage movement was not all badges and banners. Women who wanted the right to vote were ridiculed, ostracized, and jailed. They were left by their husbands, shunned by their families, and viewed as dangerous by the anti-suffrage majority, which included other women.
When they organized and demonstrated, they were thrown in jail, where some went without food and were even viciously beaten by male guards. These aren’t the stories that you read in your textbook, but women across the country were subject to this horrific treatment simply because they wanted to be involved in the political process.
Women have been voting for only 90 years, but in that time the fervor and excitement of winning that right have decreased significantly. It seems that women have forgotten the incredible struggle their great-grandmothers fought to allow future generations to use the political voices that were being silenced, or that they simply can’t be bothered to care.
While in the 1980s women surpassed men in percentage of voters, still today only about 60 percent of women exercise their right to vote. This midterm election is projected to have even fewer votes cast by women, with a more exaggerated decline in votes from women aged 19 to 29.
Tomorrow is an election day. Everyone on this campus has been besieged with pleas to vote, and tomorrow that clamor will be silenced. I am going to vote, not only because I am concerned with the future, but to pay tribute to the past, and I hope that many do the same. You don’t have to be a Women’s Studies major or a self-described feminist to appreciate the sacrifices women made to what they believed was the greater good; you just have to appreciate that women had to fight tooth and nail for the right that you may now take for granted.
So tomorrow, cast your ballot with purpose. Vote for the future, vote for the past. Vote for those who couldn’t, vote for those that don’t. But mainly, vote for yourself, and be a part of the movement to put candidates that truly represent the majority into office. Then celebrate the fact that this is one of the last pro-voting editorials you will read this election season and that the opinion page will return to its usual irreverent ways shortly.
Allegra Dimperio ([email protected]) is a sophomore intending to major in journalism.