Fempire Diaries

If This 100-Year-Old Story Doesn’t Get You Out to Vote, Nothing Will

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Usually we set aside Monday for some general take-on-the-week/topple-the-patriarchy motivation. This being the eve of the all-too-long 2016 presidential election and general fatigue being the order of the day, we thought we’d introduce you to one woman whose story should—at the very least—shame you into some last-minute electoral enthusiasm.

Jeanette Rankin, a leading light of the second generation of American suffragists, is best known as the first woman elected to federal office in the United States of America. The Republican Representative for Montana’s 1st, Rankin took her seat in almost one hundred years ago after an extended door-to-door, face-to-face campaign that had her crisscrossing the nation’s largest electoral district throughout 1916. As you might expect, many hailed her watershed win. Others protested it.

As notable as that all is, a little-mentioned remarkable thing about the remarkable election of this remarkable woman is this: Rankin came into office four years before suffrage became national law through the Nineteenth Amendment.

While, as in upwards of 20 states at the time, Montana did allow women to cast ballots for Presidential elections, Rankin voted, argued, and brokered legislation in a congress filled with men who women neither voted for or against. Imagine that for a moment.

Imagine, too, sitting in front of a President during a State of a Union Address knowing that many of your fellow women had absolutely no say in his election. Rankin did it twice. Matter of fact, Woodrow Wilson began both speeches, “Gentleman of the Congress” despite the fact that she was in the audience.

Imagine all that, imagine what she thought at those moments, and just try to come up with a passable excuse for not choosing not to vote tomorrow, for choosing to pass up the opportunity to engage in democracy in the way so many in Rankin’s America could not. You won’t find it.

Yes, you may dislike your party’s candidate. Yes, you may dislike all the five players in this election (Clinton, Trump, Johnson, Stein, McMullin). Many do. Yet, one of them will be president. In a way, allowing any of them to do so without your voice being heard takes us back 100 years.

Read more about Representative Jeanette Rankin’s fascinating, inspiring life here.

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