Women’s Equality Day through a Brown Lens

August 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.

Claudia Richards By:   |   August 26, 2011


  1. Lisa Goodnight Lisa Goodnight says:

    Reading this.. gave me the chills. And what a great picture.

  2. Avatar Joyfulkira says:

    Bravo! I have 3 children who are now grown men and a woman; I did the same as your mom. In addition, on their 18th birthdays I took them to get their voter registration cards. Knowing our legacy as an American, especially a black one, how could you not vote.

  3. Avatar advocatepat says:

    Thank you for sharing a powerful personal story. It really seems ironic that the right to vote was incredibly difficult to achieve for so many, and such a low percentage of citizens actually do go to the polls. Being disenchanted or jaded with our government or elected officials is no reason to surrender active responsibility. Getting women to vote is crucial because livelihood threatening changes may become reality.

  4. Avatar Barb Olson says:

    Thanks for posting this — an important day! The photo reminds me of when my parents took me with them to vote and then when we took our daughters with us to vote.

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