Friday, November 07, 2008

Voting Now and Then

Here is a link to an editorial I have written about how I feel about voting.

In preparation for this piece, I called my mother and talked to her about what her mother thought about having the right to vote. She explained something that is haunting and makes me cherish my right to vote even more.

When the 19th amendment was ratified in 1920, my grandmother was just under the legal voting age at the time, but she would be of voting age before my mother was born five years later. During the first campaign in which she could have voted, though, there was a poll tax.

After blacks were given the right to vote with the 15th amendment, some of the southern states like Alabama enacted poll taxes knowing full well the local blacks, Native Americans, and poor whites couldn't afford them. There was an exception to the tax called the "grandfather clause" allowing any male whose father had voted previously to vote for free. Of course, the only men who qualified under the clause were whites, keeping out the "undesirables."

So, when women were given the right to vote, considered equally undesirable in government, they had to pay first, and because my grandparents were relatively poor, my grandmother couldn't afford it and was refused the right. These were people who bartered for everything—they paid for my grandmother's surgery once with two bails of cotton, had their crop of sugar cane milled for a percentage of the syrup, and got a sewing machine as payment for a debt owed them.

She told my mother that she tried to pay in installments but got behind and couldn't catch up for years. The federal government put an end to these poll taxes but not until 1964, so we are not sure when my grandmother was first able to vote.

We certainly have come a long way, haven't we?

6 comments:

dive said...

You certainly have, Robyn.
Next step is a woman as President.
I think you'd make a good candidate.

Cheri @ Blog This Mom! said...

Yes we HAVE!

Virginia Harris said...

Now that the 2008 election and its historic high turnout is history, there is much greater appreciation for the privilege of voting.

But most people don't realize that out of 44 American presidents, only the last 15 were elected in a truly democratic fashion by all of our citizens -- men AND women.

Until 1920 women were denied the vote, and few people have any idea of the struggle our suffragettes had to go through to right this wrong. It's an amazing, awe-inspiring story!

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lynn said...

Absolutely, Robyn.

Mark said...

So I read a column on voting last week in 'small town newspaper,' after which I went to work and checked in on a blog I just discovered. Where said blog linked to a column she wrote. Heh. Imagine my surprise.

I like what you say and how you say it, online or on paper. You make me think, you make me laugh. Thank you.

Scout said...

No, Mark. Thank YOU.