Voting is a privilege, a right and an obligation. A hundred years ago women were not citizens of this United States of America. They could not vote. Ladies were told it was just best for them if they did not. Women had too sensitive a soul to sully it in the common voting booth. They were not well educated about politics. It was a man’s job and very unseemly to be seen at the polls. It would be such a breach of etiquette—equal to going outside when pregnant. The suffragettes went to jail, were killed, force fed in prison and maligned in every newspaper in the country.
On August 18, 1920, the Nineteenth Amendment became part of the Constitution and women could vote at age 21. Politicians became aware of all those delicate voters and starting speaking on prohibition, child health, public schools and best of all, just ask any beauty contest winner, world peace. It took a few decades for women to really become voters. Most followed along if their husbands voted, so they did too. Their husbands told them who to vote for and why. “Because I said so.” This was the main reason.
During the 1960s with an unpopular war raging, Congress did something so quickly it almost took our breath away. Young people railed that if you could draft someone to go to war and die, they deserved the right to vote. The Twenty-sixth Amendment made it legal to vote at eighteen. So, no more waiting until you were twenty-one. Young women not only wanted to vote, they wanted to do it with “no bra.” It still took until 1980 before women turned out in equal numbers.
So how are we celebrating 100 years of women voting today? Well, I asked some friends when they first voted and how they felt about it. My sister Maggie Foxx, 60, has definite words about it. “If you don’t vote, you don’t get to run your mouth about it later. I always vote so I am allowed an opinion.” And as her older sister, I can reassure you she does… have an opinion.
Next, I spoke with Susie Armijo. Susie helps me in this cluttered world I call my home. Without her I couldn’t find squat. She came to the U.S.A. as an adopted child from Colombia at eleven and a half. She learned English in record time and became a citizen at 16. Susie quoted, “As a citizen it is your right to vote. I would not change it. It means a lot to me.” Susie and Richard Armijo live in Moriarty and three of their children, all graduates from Moriarty High, were taken by their mom to register to vote.
My oldest friend since we were 11, Liz Hatchitt, who married my first cousin, Jim, told how she first voted. She was in college at Ames University in southern Iowa. She was raised on a farm and was registered in Badger. It was a tiny spot in the road. Her Dad, Jo McGill, worked the polls. I asked her if she had to sign or show identification? “Not with my Dad working there. I just went in and voted. I was twenty-one.”
Iowa is all farm country, but most Americans know them for their early caucus in February. Iowa has glory only every four years. My neighbor across the street in Edgewood is Judy Roberts. She is from Las Vegas, New Mexico. Judy’s greatest thrill with voting was to have voted for President John F. Kennedy. Liz and I were too young to vote, but we got to see President Kennedy in a quick parade in Fort Dodge where we went to school. We shook his hand; it was our claim to fame. Liz was in Iowa when we moved, and my first voting was in Albuquerque, I was 21 and I was so excited my hand shook as I filled out the ballot.
Bill, my husband, wanted his ears to look like Mr. Spock on Star Trek; so, I took him to a dermatologist today. As I was waiting for him, I asked the lovely lady behind the desk, Samantha Johnston, when she first voted. She was 18 and in 2004 was when she did it. Samantha has a Master’s in education, and she was already in college. Her relatives were on both sides of the aisle in politics. Being a smart girl, she did the research on candidates herself. She knew the platforms. She put it this way: “People don’t realize how heavy each vote weighs. We can make a difference.”
These are some of the women voting today. Happy Birthday, Ladies. We won. Roaring Mouse, reading political platforms. Out.
From 1966 to 1971, Jo attended the University of New Mexico and Memphis State University, earning degrees in Communications, English, Journalism, Speech and Drama with history minors. At UNM, her hero was Tony Hillerman. She taught high school and middle school in city, country, and private schools for 30 years. Roaring Mouse is in its 25 th year. She can be reached at email@example.com