A few weeks ago, a friend of mine made a statement about the stupidity of “I Voted” stickers. He called them a waste of money. I rolled my eyes. Lately I feel like I can’t go a full day without rolling my eyes at a white man. (In fact, the other day, I was trying to drive out of grocery store and a middle aged white man stopped on the sidewalk, right in front of my car – in a clearly marked exit – and began to tend to a hangnail. It lasted so long, I began to narrate. “Behold, the middle aged white man in his natural environment. Notice his complete confidence in his status of his surroundings. He is oblivious to the needs of others, and is even unconcerned by the fact that he is stealing that shopping cart. An act which, no doubt, will be blamed on a brown child.”)
I took the sticker thing personally because, not long before, I was lamenting about the fact that I voted by mail and therefore would not be getting a sticker. It is a small thing but I love them. I love the way wearing one makes me feel, because it reminds me of how lucky I am to be living in this time and place, no matter how frustrated I am with the system as it stands.
My grandmother (my Mom’s Mom) was born in 1909. William Taft was president. The “Gilded Age” was ending, but it would be another five years before “The Great War” began. And, in 1909, women could not vote.
As of 1870, all American men had theoretically been granted the right to vote through the 15th amendment. (“The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” Of course, in practice, we know the exercising of this right was more complicated and fraught.) The fight for women’s rights had picked up steam in the 1840s, but still had a long way to go. In 1875, the US Supreme Court unanimously decided in Minor v. Happersett that the 14th amendment (“No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws) did not grant a woman the right to vote. The justices granted that a woman was a citizen but determined that the right to vote was not a constitutionally protected right of all citizens.
The fight raged on for many decades, and it got ugly. Many people (including a number of women) were against votes for women.
Nonetheless, as they say, they persisted.
In 1918, 100 years ago, some white women of England were given the right to vote. They had to be over 30 and either own property or be the wives of property owners.
White women of the United States were granted the right to vote in 1920, when my grandmother was 11 years old. This is not a historical figure that I have only read about. I knew her; we had a relationship. She died when I was a teenager. Women got the right to vote a mere 24 years before my mother was born. It will be another two years before we can celebrate 100 years of Women’s Suffrage in the United States.
At the risk of beating a dead horse, my point is: that was not very long ago!
Many other groups had to wait even longer. In 1924, Native Americans were granted citizenship and given the right to vote. In 1943, Chinese American immigrants were granted citizenship and the right to vote. African American women were not able to vote in some Southern states until the 1960s.
The forefathers of our country sacrificed and labored so that we could have this experiment in democracy, wherein the right to vote was given to white men of property. Since then, thousands of people fought and died to secure the right to vote for every citizen, and the fight goes on. In Florida, people are voting this very minute to determine if convicted felons who have served their time should have their voting rights restored.
The vote is the important thing. The sticker is just the little side thing that you can wear with pride, if you so choose. But I want that fucking sticker. Even if I have to make one for myself.
You don’t have to want the sticker. But please vote. No matter who you are, someone made a sacrifice so that you could. Getting out there and voting is the only way to say “thanks.”