As voting reached near fever pitch in this midterm election, I have thought about this right to participate that so often goes unheralded and ignored.
In particular, I recalled a high school essay found in my father-in-law’s keepsakes after his death. As you can see by this grainy newspaper picture where he is carefully annotated as “Daddy” in the bubble created by his son, Adolphus Butler graduated from Pontotoc High School in 1913. Al and I don’t know the date on the essay but it would have to be prior to this, nor do we know which of his sons might still have a copy, but we both remember reading his impassioned plea for women to have the right to vote. He was ahead of his time.
Mississippi would not guarantee women the right to vote until the passage of the nineteenth amendment in 1920, sixty-nine years after Wyoming. If you ever make a trip to Wyoming and join a tour, I think all their guides have been instructed to mention that Wyoming was the first to grant women the full right to vote in 1869 when it was still a territory. Of course, there was New Jersey that recognized the right of women to vote in 1797 where they voted in large numbers until 1807 when the assembly passed a law that only free white males could vote.
If you’d like a really good book with more on the subject of women getting the vote, read Winifred Conkling’s Votes for Women that I reviewed when it came out in February. Don’t feel ashamed to use a middle grade book as a source of information and inspiration on this subject since children’s books frequently are the source of the best research around and are written to hold one’s attention.
My father-in-law died too young before I started dating his son (but not before I’d noticed him), so I never got to know him well. Still, I’ve heard enough about him that I think he would be proud that I ride in the red pickup with his son to cast my vote on a regular basis. I don’t think he would even care that I have a mind of my own and often cancel his son’s vote. And I think he might be proud of the number of women who were elected this week to hold office!