Women’s Equality Day through a Brown LensAugust 26, 2011
Women’s Equality Day commemorates passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which grants all women the right to vote. Growing up in the D.C. metro area, I wasn’t interested in politics. But I do remember my great-grandmother, grandparents, and parents taking me with them to the polls. We stood in line, which seemed like forever, and took our turn going behind the curtain to pull the levers. I used to think it was a game. I tried to pull one once and got my hand popped for that. I did not understand then what it all really meant.
I was 18 when I had my first chance to vote, and I have voted consistently ever since. I admit, however, I never thought about how I got the right to vote. Talking with my mom, she reminded me that I am the great-granddaughter of Harvey Taylor, a child of freed slaves who signed his name with an X. She told me his stories about “literacy tests” for black voters and her experiences with segregation and watching her parents vote. My mother was in college in 1965 when the Voting Rights Act was signed.
My mother let me make up my own mind about selecting political parties and candidates, but she was always adamant about me voting. She says, “You are representing all those that could not vote before you. Make your voice heard.”
Today, it brings me great joy to see generations talking about the future while not forgetting our past. Still, there are too many eligible female voters who feel disenfranchised and are not casting their ballots on election day. Everyone has the right to make their voices heard.
So to those who came before me and fought for suffrage, I say thank you. Every time I vote, I represent Bella Abzug, Mary Church Terrell, Alice Paul, Frederick Douglass, Shirley Chisholm, Brenda Dixon (my mom), and Harvey Taylor (my great-grandfather). And I make my voice heard.