Why Vote?

This is a local election day in Lowell, MA. Both City Council and School Committee representatives will be decided upon by the end of the day. Local pundits are predicting a low turnout, and I for one hope they are totally off base. Not exercising your right to vote is something that I just don’t understand. Don’t people want to have a voice in who represents them?

MinniePalmerFlournoyafter1891In the late part of the 19th century, women and especially married women had little in the way of citizen’s rights and they most certainly could not vote or hold office. While unmarried women could inherit money, married women could not. I’ve been reading the history of women’s voting rights in one of my ancestral heartlands, Missouri, and while this is Missouri’s story, there are probably many commonalities with other states.

My great grandmother, Minnie Palmer Flournoy was made a young widow in 1891 when her husband Richard was killed in a tragic train accident. As a widow with two very young children, she had to fight the railroad through an attorney to get a settlement for Richard’s untimely death. I have that correspondence in my genealogy files. If memory serves me correctly, she received the princely sum of $500.

When women of Missouri demonstrated for the suffragette movement, my great-grandmother was part of that. I often have wondered if her motivation and support for the 19th Amendment could have had its beginning in the treatment she received from the railroad when her husband died.

Nearly every time that I vote, I think of the courage my great-grandmother had to muster to participate in the suffragette marches. I am grateful, but also awed because women like Minnie Flournoy had the extraordinary courage to demand the right to participate in our representative democracy. They did not give up on this idea even when the measures were defeated as they were several times in Missouri.

This morning I voted as I have on nearly every Election Day since I was old enough to do so. To do otherwise would be a disservice to those women who recognized a wrong that needed to be made right.