The first time I got to vote, I went with my parents. They had taken me to register months before and we went together to vote in a local election. It was a political nerd right of passage, I think. By the time, Georgie and Jack were voting age, they could register to vote when they got their driver’s licenses.
I didn’t get to take Georgie to vote for the first time, but I watched Jack cast his first primary election ballot and vote in the 2008 national election. He saved the headlines from the Caller-Times that announced that Obama had been elected. I still have the front page. (“We won, Mom! Did you see it? I elected the president! I’m saving this!”)
As a white male, Jack would have been able to vote since the inception of our nation. Georgie and I, on the other hand, would have had to wait until the 20th century since we lived in Texas.
The Texas Constitutional Convention was called in 1868 to write a new constitution that would allow us to rejoin the Union. A declaration was introduced by T.H. Mundine of Burleson which stated that all persons who met age, residence, and citizenship requirements should be allowed to vote, regardless of sex. Mundine pointed out that women bore their share of the burden of government and should have a say in enacting its laws. The declaration was defeated 52-13 with the majority calling voting “unwomanly.”
Farm women lived hard lives; their lives hadn’t changed for generations. Women living in rural areas had no sympathy for suffragists and women’s right to vote was an unpopular issue. A Texas Methodist minister summed up the rural folks attitude toward suffragists:
The leaders of the Suffragette movement, as a rule, are divorced women, women who prefer pug dogs to children, and supernumerary spinsters… who, failing to capture a man, propose to remedy this misfortune by turning [into] men themselves.
Other anti-suffrage thinking described women as temperamentally inferior to men, governed by emotion, not logic, and too shallow and irresponsible to be trusted with the responsibility of voting. The leaders of the movement were considered “unnatural” man-haters who were belittling the natural role of women as mothers and homemakers.
This line of thinking led to the conclusion that the supremacy of the Anglo-Saxon race could be threatened if women’s suffrage became law. By granting the vote to women, Texas and the rest of the South could find itself on a slippery slope that might eventually result in black domination.
At the same time that suffrage was an issue in Texas, prohibition became a hot topic. In 1887, 1908, and 1911, Texas prohibitionists tried and failed by narrow margins to get a statewide prohibition law passed. Male prohibitionists realized that Texas women, who saw liquor as a cause for poverty and famine, favored prohibition and began to lobby for women to vote.
That’s why voting and drinking are linked.
Without those prohibitionists, we women might not be voting today. On Saturday, June 28, 1919, Texas became the ninth state in the Union and the first Southern state to ratify the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. In August 1920, the amendment achieved final ratification, and women throughout the United States could vote at last.
In reading the propaganda of what would happen if women were given the right to vote, I couldn’t help noticing the correlation between what people thought would happen if women got the vote and the talk about what people think might happen if gays and lesbians get to marry.
It’s funny how dark and drastic I predict consequences when the political agenda isn’t what I believe. I know that the consequences are somewhere west of the Atlantic, but I can’t stop the ‘end of the world as I know it’ predictions.
I smiled when I read the phrases about the manhating women of the 19-teens; Nancy Pelosi, Diane Feinstein, and other women in our political arena are often tattooed with those kinds of phrases. I say equally mean things about Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann. The difference? I think I’m right.
I’ve had to accept, in sobriety, that I’m not always right and that dire consequences generally happen when I’m looking in the other direction. Rarely have they happened as I predicted.
And that’s the other link between drinking and voting. When I drank, I talked and talked about politics. I argued and berated because I didn’t agree with anyone who wasn’t jumping up and down for MY issues. Did I convince anyone that I was (am) right? Could Bill O’Reilly sell me on a presidential candidate?
I don’t think so.
I’m grateful for those women and men who came before and lobbied and spoke and demonstrated for women’s suffrage. They weren’t sitting on the couch with a glass of wine talking about the state of the union; they were doing their part.
What I can do today is remember what has happened in this last Texas legislative session and put my money and time where my mouth is. And ultimately get my bum into a voting booth.
That’s my part.