Last Tuesday still seems like a dream. Women worked it in this election! We turned out to vote and in many instances ours was the deciding vote, including here in Connecticut. We elected a record number of women to the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, now making up 18% of Congress.
This is pretty huge news considering women couldn’t vote 93 years ago. The idea that women were not permitted to vote seems insane to me. I am very uncomfortable with the images floating around facebook illustrating what this election would have looked like if women couldn’t vote.
Personally, I think a hell of a lot else would be different if women weren’t allowed to vote…including the candidates. What these images should make us focus on is the part about women being denied the right to vote-our ideas and opinions banned from public discourse. This certainly wasn’t the case last Tuesday!
While thinking about this post, I looked up “suffrage”. I read what I was figuring. Suffrage wasn’t won overnight. A very long time ago, women actually could vote. Then in 1777, women began losing their right to vote and by 1787, states were granted the right to decide if women could vote or not. Immediately, women began losing their right to vote in all states but one, New Jersey. Pretty crazy, and sounds a lot like the tactics being used by anti-choice politicians to limit women’s access to reproductive health services, but I digress. It wasn’t until the 1830’s that women began to get limited rights, passing local laws that allowed women to vote in school elections.
During the next 80 years, 1839-1919, nine states gave women the right to vote. During those 80 years, women advocates worked hard to get states to pass voting rights for women, always working toward their larger goal of universal suffrage. During those 80 years, women also worked to get elected into office, with the first woman getting elected into the U.S. Congress in 1917, three years before she could legally vote for President. Finally, in 1920 women won the vote. This is all a long and terrifying way of saying that last Tuesday was amazing and we need to get stronger by voting in federal, state and local elections and work to elect smart women into all levels of office.
Decisions being made at all levels of Government impact us, our families, our children and our friends. Our elected officials can prioritize things that we all care about, like preventing toxic chemicals from being used in our products, or funding programs that help with childcare costs or paid maternity leave. Sure women won’t agree on everything, but women bring much needed perspectives and new ways of debating and discussing issues that are important to improving the lives of women, families and children.
We now have 20 women in the U.S. Senate and 76 in the U.S. House! In 1992, main stream media outlets declared it the “Year of the Woman” because 5 women were elected to the U.S. Senate and 24 to the House of Representatives. I was 10. I loved school, I was the fastest girl in my class, and I believed that I could be and do anything. 20 years later, it was our vote that decided this election and our vote that elected more women into Congress than ever before. Although we still have a way to go to get to equal representation of women in Congress, if we learn from the past, with time and effort, we can achieve anything. We are doing it ladies. Keep workin it!