Patrick Taylor – Highlands Mayor
Labor Day signals change in seasons, including the earnest kickoff of the political season. COVID-19 has the potential to impact these events.
It will be a special election in 2020, although I have come to believe all elections are special.
In messages to get out and vote, we will hear the refrain that our veterans fought so we may have the right to vote. While that is certainly true, others have also fought to affirm everyone’s right to vote.
One hundred years ago many of our grandmothers and even great and great, great grandmothers fought for the right to vote. The women’s suffrage movement began some seven decades before their 1920 victory. Year after year the men who were legislators and the only voters, denied women access to the ballot. In order to win, women had to fight for the vote.
Before, during and after World War 1, a group of dedicated women decided took drastic actions to demand the right to vote. These women developed tactics that had never been done in America. First, they developed an organized and systematic lobbying plan directed toward senators and congressmen. They would go in small groups to congressional offices to make their case. They lobbied in public, in full view of the press, not in back rooms and saloons. These women were civil, yet determined. They would not go away, but returned over and over again demanding the right to vote.
The suffragettes also implemented another tactic that had never been done before. They picketed in front of the White House. At first President Wilson was amused, but the women didn’t go away and continued to picket daily, in the rain, heat and snow.
The suffragettes also endured physical pain. Crowds shouted at them, threw things at them and physically assaulted them. They would not yield. Finally, many of the suffragists were arrested and jailed. In jail several women went on hunger strikes only to be tied to chairs and force fed by having tubes shoved down to their stomachs.
The public began to see the determination and endurance of the suffragettes. Finally, in 1920 women won the right to vote. I say won, not given, the right the vote. So, in this election season, I hope we will all be mindful of the past struggles of people to vote. It didn’t stop in 1920, voting rights struggles in the South continued into the 1960’s.
I want everyone, regardless of political affiliations, to cast a ballot on or before Nov. 3. With COVID-19 still with us, I will be early voting. Early voting will begin on the third Thursday before Election Day. If just 50 to 100 people voted on each day of early voting, coupled with folks doing mail-in ballots, there would be no large crowds of voters at our Highlands Civic Center precinct on November 3. The fear of COVID exposure could be minimized.
A final thought about the suffrage campaign. Some folks 100 years ago took the position that it was unseemly for women to be involved in politics and voting. Many congressmen said a woman’s place was in the home. Those defensive arguments of that past time are now laughable and even bizarre 100 years later.