Friday, June 4, 2010

Liberation, Female and Otherwise

On this day in June 1919, Congress passed the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, giving women the right to vote, if the states ratified the Amendment. They did, and the rest is history.

I grew up devouring stories of those early suffragists and abolitionists. I loved narratives that involved oppressed groups fighting for change. It astonished me that it took so long for women to get the right to vote.

I was growing up in the 1970's, another important time for women's expanding freedoms and rights; sure the roots for that movement were seeded in the 60's, but I agree with those authors who argue that the decade of the 1970's is really the decade that saw great strides in human liberation of many stripes and colors. I remember the various conversations that I overheard about what women could and could not do. I remember hearing older folks aghast at the idea of a woman preaching. I remember hearing many a woman say that she could never go to a female doctor, which just mystified me, even as a child.

We live in a world that hasn't been transformed by those human rights movements quite as much as I had hoped for when I was younger and more idealistic (and much, much more impatient). And yet, in some ways, the pace of change has been breathtaking. It's fascinating to me to see which states and municipalities are granting homosexual people the right to legal unions, for example. Many of us are working for companies that are family friendly in ways we never could have hoped for back in the 70's, when we began to work for that change. We have a president who is part African-American, and for the most part, people haven't had much trouble coping with this idea.

I've never understood why people are so casual about the right to vote. I grew up watching citizens in other countries fighting actual wars to get the right to have a voice in their government. Women haven't had the right to vote in this country for a full century, and I'm going to give up that opportunity to cast my vote? I don't think so.

I'll try to remember my good fortune as I watch politicians do and say increasingly goofy things, and as I suffer through political ads during the bit of television watching that I do. I'm lucky to be able to cast a vote.

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