Warrior Words: Women, voting and their place in history
“The paramount destiny and mission of women are to fulfill the noble and benign offices of wife and mother. And the rules of civil society must be adapted to the general constitution of things.” No, this is not Donald Trump’s latest Twitter rant; rather, those are the words of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Joseph Bradley in a concurring opinion of Bradwell v. Illinois (1872). The Supreme Court upheld an Illinois law that restricted state bar membership to men. Denying the right to practice law was just one of the many ways by which women were lawfully subjected to discrimination in that era; the principal form of discrimination was denying women the right to vote.
The fight for women’s suffrage began at the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848 in Seneca Falls, N.Y. — now the site of the rather inspirational Women’s Rights National Park — led by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott. The cause was taken up by characters like Susan B. Anthony and Jeannette Rankin. That fight led to the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1919 that the right to vote cannot be denied on account of sex.
Students who can vote in the 2016 presidential primary registered in school with Wilton’s League of Women Voters a few weeks ago. We’ve all taken government and U.S. history classes, and even if our vote is too small to matter, and even if unfaithful delegates have free will, we vote because it’s a privilege and a duty. It’s a milestone. Not voting wouldn’t just be wasting my own voice, it’s wasting the years and petitions and speeches and voices of all those audacious men and women on whose shoulders we stand.
This year we may have the opportunity to select a woman as the 45th president. Hill and I actually don’t have a great history — during the 2008 primary I was operating my budding political career out of Wilton’s Democratic HQ doing cold calls for Obama — as a 10-year-old. I then sent Hillary a personal email politely asking her if she would pleeeease rescind her campaign, the first female U.S. president is actually currently a small blond child in third grade in Wilton, Connecticut. Alas, no response, and oddly enough, Hillary continued her campaign.
My dad’s anarchist U.S. government professor used to tell him that she never voted because “it only encourages them so.” Perhaps true, we perpetuate the system, but voting shouts louder into the void than not voting in protest!
Olivia Phelan is a senior at Wilton High School. She shares this column with four classmates.