I never checked to see if she voted but she regularly shushed us while leaning toward the tabletop radio in the parlor to hear the president’s speech (Roosevelt or Truman?), then when his crackly voice finished, flipped the dial and gave us her version. But I’m guessing my paternal grandmother Minnie took advantage of every right afforded her. After arriving in America from Russia approximately twenty-five years before the August 18, 1920 law went into effect—probably traveling in steerage luxury—she was a strong woman with strong opinions.
As far as I know, none of her daughters—nor the daughters of my maternal grandmother—graduated high school. But every one of the seven worked alone or alongside their husbands to provide for their families in a variety of ways. Many were women of strong Christian faith, passing that faith along to their children. Though none paraded as suffragettes (I suspect my mother might have liked to be in that parade if she hadn’t already been working full time at age thirteen), each took seriously the privilege afforded them. In the years before her death at age eighty-one, my mother made sure her MAIL IN BALLOT was properly stamped for every local and national election.
But what about now? Do my granddaughters know—or feel—the privilege of their rights? As important, do my grandsons understand, applaud, encourage the women in their lives? A friend—an ordained Christian minister—recently posted on Facebook the following conversation with her three-year-old son:
L: Mommy, are you a pastor?
L: Are you a church leader, too?
L: Just like Pastor “John” is a pastor?
L: And are you a church leader?
And he went back to his three-year-old world, taking for granted that his mother had her place in the world. And in the church.
My Grandmother Minnie’s picture is faded and blurred but she left an indelible imprint on this granddaughter. Am I—are we—similarly marking out the path for those who follow? Especially this year, we dare not take our hard won franchise for granted. Walk proudly to the polls and remember Minnie!