The 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution: “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 sex. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.” -Passed August 18, 1920
This year I’ve been thinking a lot about the women in my family: my Great-Grandmother Daisy, who in 1920 was married and had a baby under the age of one when she won the right to vote.
My grandmother, who would tell me the story of voting for the opposite party than her husband in 1960, with a toddler in her arms, and how his party committee gave him slack, but he said: “I can’t tell her who she’s going to vote for”. Most importantly though, my Mom. Besides telling me stories of working her small-town elections in Foster as a runner, she has worked the polls in our town for the last decade. These women are the reason I’ve always thought voting was just a thing you did- whether small-town elections or nationwide. Growing up I didn’t understand party affiliations or remember who my parents voted for. I just remember that they both always made a point to go and vote in our middle school gym. When I became a parent, I tried to carry on that tradition, and I make sure it’s a thing my child sees me do as well.
We as parents need to teach our kids to understand why it’s important to vote, no matter who they eventually vote for; and we as parents also need to understand how voting affects our kids’ lives now. For the first time in a long time we’re seeing up close and personal how local and state government affect our everyday lives – with Covid 19.
In local government, it’s currently most seen with the School committee – With decisions being made for the start of school, and how schooling will look this year. For many of us this is probably the first time we’ve tuned into our local school committee meetings, and we’ve seen in real-time who the people on these committees are. It may be the first time you’ve asked – wait, do these people have kids? Are they working parents? Who decided that they get to make these decisions? The truth is that we did, at our town election. When we brush off a town election or don’t do at least a brief google search of who the people on the ballot are, we do ourselves a disservice in the long run.
In State Government, I have to say I don’t remember a time in my life where Governors have been more visible. With daily press briefings and updates, we are seeing how the rules that they make and the people they hire to help make them are affecting our everyday lives. Wearing a mask, businesses that can open, how many people can gather – these are all rules made and enforced by elected officials. We’ve started asking ourselves: Who’s deciding I can’t see my Grandmother in her nursing home? Who’s in charge of taking care of her? Now that I’ve lost my job how can I get on assistance programs? When a vaccine comes out, how will the Health Department administer them? I lost my job and need help with child care assistance, help receiving child support, etc – all of these, and most assistance programs, are led by a Director of Human Services – someone who has been appointed by our Elected Governor. Voting for the people who run our state – it matters!
Wanting to be more involved, but not knowing how to incorporate voting into your family’s life can be tough. In our family, we personally make it a point to go to all the elections – I write it on the weekly calendar as a “family event”. Beforehand my husband and I have a brief but purposeful discussion on who’s running, and on what issues they stand for that we like or don’t like, at the dinner table so our son can hear us talk about it. I will tell you, we don’t always vote for the same person! However, we discuss afterwards in the car who we voted for and why – many times we try and guess first who we think the other voted for – usually guessing correctly, but sometimes surprising each other. We listen to each other – my husband verbally shows our son that he values my opinion, a subconscious lesson we hope he’ll carry with him through life. We try to make it feel special, a privilege, something exciting like an event, and in doing so it takes out the ‘chore’ of it being a ‘duty’.
Generations later, I hope we all take the time to teach our children that voting does matter, and to remember the women who fought for our right to vote, and let our voices be heard. Happy 100th Anniversary!
About the Guest Contributor:: Ashley Clement
Ashley and her husband lived in Chicago for the better half of a decade, but when their son was born it became apparent that their mothers would go broke coming to visit, so they moved back home to Southeastern MA, to the town they grew up in. When meeting new people one of these subjects will inevitably come up: She’s one of eight sisters, she used to be a flight attendant, she loves all things crafting and planning.
Ashley is currently living her life long dream of being a Mom.