I’m captivated by this photo. I love the solemnity, the intensity, the gravity of the election as it’s captured here in 1897. These men were standing in the cold, dressed in their thick wool coats, hands in pockets, to vote — probably a local election since President Taft was still serving his 1908-1912 term. It is a powerful reminder of the awesome responsibility we have to vote.
In 1897 women did not have the right to vote in Pennsylvania, and would not until the 19th Amendment was adopted on 26 Aug 1920, after languishing in the House Of Representatives for nearly 50 years until forced to act on it by Representative Martha Griffins.
Pennsylvania, despite the early influence of the Quakers in regards to women’s equality, defeated numerous efforts to grant voting privileges to women, including striking down a 1915 referendum.
The current voter ID law in Pennsylvania presents an additional burden of proof for women who have changed their name when they got married or divorced. Two forms of ID, not one, will be needed. Though being fast-tracked in the courts, this law is just one of many over the centuries which attempt to control who among our citizens can vote.
Today women can and are, voting.
In 37 days citizens in the United States will chose the next President. Women voters are expected to out-pace male voters by a significant margin. In 2008, women voted 65.7% vs. 61.5% of men. Single women, educated voters, older voters and white and black voters out-participated the demographic blocks for youth,Hispanic and Asian, and lower-income.
Women today are standing up in force, casting their ballots and participating in the democratic process. Yet there is no universal women’s block as was feared in the early 1900′s. There is no powerful Women’s Party, another fear that overpowered women’s efforts to win the vote. Women, like men, vote their conscience.
Women today vote Republican, Democratic, Libertarian and Green Party. They participate in congress, in school boards, in governing states and leading cities. Though the numbers on the national stage is not huge – just 277 women have served in the United States Congress since 1917, when when Representative Jeannette Rankin of Montana became the first woman to serve in Congress — these women continue to be pioneer’s for women’s rights.
Pennsylvania has sent only 7 women to the House of Representatives since 1942, when Veronica Grace Boland was sworn in, taking her husband’s seat after his death. It seems out of balance to me that on average, only 1 woman per decade is chosen to represent Pennsylvania, but I’ll celebrate it none-the-less.
I’m not trying to pick on Pennsylvania. I’m going there in a few weeks and have been researching my mother’s Riggle and Phelps family histories, so I’m learning about the state. In doing my research I found this photo. The photo sparked my curiosity and this post is the result.
When I step back and try to encapsulate what I really want to say, it’s this: Voting matters. It’s the most powerful mechanism we have for effecting change.
I find it fascinating that 37% of eligible voters simply can’t be bothered. They are too busy, not interested, or don’t like the candidates or issues being voted on. I sort of understand too busy, and wonder if that will change as mail-in voting takes the place of old-fashion polling places. But I don’t understand uninterested.
- Harris-Perry: Pennsylvania law ‘a tax’ on women voters (rawstory.com)
- VoteHER Toolkit: Essential Resources for All Voters (blog-aauw.org)
- What do you wish for YOUR Daughter? (hrschoolhouse.com)
- Why Pennsylvania’s Vote Suppressors Can Never Win (theatlantic.com)