Musings of Seneca Falls In Celebration Of U.S. Women's Right To Vote
I had the opportunity to spend some time in Seneca Falls, New York this summer. It was my third visit to this “must do” destination for all feminist pilgrims in search of a few hours of inspiration and immersion in our women's rights history. Seneca Falls is home to the Women's Rights National Historic Park, National Women's Hall of Fame, and the historic home of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, human rights activist and convener of the first Women's Rights Convention in Seneca Falls back in July of 1848.
I felt a twinge of nostalgia remembering my second visit in the 1990's with our daughters Ariel and Stacey, who were about 9 and 8 years old, respectively, at the time. That visit was a wonderful opportunity to expose our girls to the powerful “herstory” of the fight for women's equality and learn of the historic first steps made at Seneca Falls. That first Women's Rights Convention was an example of the determination and tenacity of the human spirit accomplished through the collective work to both abolish slavery and fight for the voting rights of all men and all women.
This summer's trip was certainly inspirational, but I also found it sobering to tour the landmarks and listen to the young park ranger who made “our story” come alive in the Methodist meeting hall that hosted the historic gathering of the first Women's Rights Convention 163 years ago. Sobering because on the same day that I toured the birthplace of the organized movement for women's suffrage in the United States, I thought about how precious our right to vote is and how rarely we think of those courageous souls, men and women, who worked so diligently and bravely against numerous odds to make full citizenship for women a reality. This reality of full citizenship transpired over a course of 72 years, until women, at long last, won the right to vote with the passage of the nineteenth amendment to the Constitution of the United States on August 26th, 1920. Through the nineteenth amendment, women are provided the precious status of citizen because the right to vote and have that vote count is a right afforded to us as full citizens under the law.
I find it ironic that the State of Ohio is currently embroiled in a challenge to that sacred right of citizenship that our foremothers and forefathers fought so hard to secure. This challenge to free, fair elections, where each and every vote counts comes via House Bill 194, coined the Voter Suppression Bill. I opposed and voted against this bill, which many believe was intended to, and will, suppress the vote of many Ohioans in the upcoming November elections and beyond. There is a citizen movement to repeal HB194 through referendum that I wholeheartedly support, because we citizens should never propose limiting the power of one individual and one vote.
HB194 has many burdensome and confusing elements which seem to be aimed at a disenfranchisement of voters rather than a reform for good. Thanks to statewide public servants such as former Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, Ohio has made great strides for the better since the days of long lines and hours of waiting time in 2004. Unfortunately, HB194 would turn the clock back on these advances. A few details from HB194 include:
- A vote will be invalidated where a voter properly marks the ballot in support of a particular candidate, but also writes in the name of that same candidate
- Satellite voting locations are eliminated for early voting and the time allotted for early voting will be drastically reduced
- The ability of counties to provide return postage on vote by mail ballots will be eliminated.
- Poll workers would not be required to tell voters that they are in the wrong precinct, and that their ballots will not be counted if they vote at an incorrect location.
As we acknowledge gratitude to those courageous activists for our right to cast our ballot and vote as full citizens, we must also pledge to protect and guard this precious right that those before us were willing to die to save. We should all take a page from our “herstory” and do everything that we can to preserve our right to vote and to have every vote count. Today that means that Ohioans must educate themselves about HB194 and sign the petition to repeal this attack on our fundamental right to vote. We owe this to ourselves and we owe this to our children who are the voters of tomorrow.
For more information regarding HB 194 please visit the League of Women Voters' website to read their release, “League of Women Voters of Ohio Supports Referendum on Elections Reform Legislation". (From http://www.lwvohio.org, click on the “In the News” tab and go to press releases.)
State Representative Nickie J. Antonio (D-Lakewood) is honored to be serving her first term in the Ohio House of Representatives. House District 13 covers the city of Lakewood in its entirety and parts of Cleveland’s West Side, including the Detroit Shoreway (Gordon Square), the Stockyards, West Boulevard, Cuddell, and a section of Ohio City. Representative Antonio is a civic-minded humanitarian who is concerned with the quality of life of those around her. She is a founding member of the Community Relations Advisory Commission made up of residents that broadly represent social, economic and culturally diverse interests of Lakewood, Ohio. She currently serves on the Health and Aging Committee, Education Committee and Commerce and Labor Committee. These committees are of special interest to Representative Antonio. She will be able to stand up for working families, education, and health and human services. Daughters Ariel and Stacey, both Lakewood High School graduates, have made Nickie and partner Jean Kosmac very proud as the girls engage in their post-secondary pursuits.