So, yesterday, my husband and I voted early. Mostly because I work on Tuesdays and didn't want voting to interfere with getting to work on time, nor did I want to be stuck in long lines after work and potentially be unable to vote.
As I was filling out my ballot, checking against the different candidates I had researched for local elections, particularly county commissioners and judges, I noticed a number of things about this election for me:
For the first time in my voting life, I voted for a Democrat for President. That's right, as many people like to call me a "libtard" or "lefty" or any number of other charming names, I did not vote for Obama, I'm not a communist, or some brainwashed drone who spent her whole life being trained to vote liberal. Quite the opposite, actually.
But, as I've made clear before, the GOP has moved in a direction that I believe is completely incompatible with the qualities that once made it great, so after years of trying to change it from the inside, I had to break up with it, and am now unaffiliated, and this year, rather than the 3rd party guy, I chose the Democrat.
For the first time in my life, I voted for a woman for President. While other women have certainly run for president, no other has come as close as Clinton has come. I have to admit, this election has been an emotional one for me. I did not expect it to hit me so profoundly when Clinton accepted the nomination, and I also did not expect the flood of emotions that hit me when, with my nearly 11 year old daughter standing next ot me, I filled in that little black circle and submitted my vote for a woman.
For the first time that I can recall, I voted for more women than men when I reviewed my ballot. From President on down the ballot (US Senate, county commission, state senate, state house, secretary of state, superintendent of education, down to judges), there were so many women running, and not just associated with one party. It was a pretty amazing feeling to be able to choose from so many candidates, both men and women and know that progress is being made in this field.
I know it doesn't seem like a big deal to most. And as one dude told me earlier this year, Clinton getting the nomination was a "given" and proceeded to tell me why it wasn't a big deal. But you know what? It was and it is a big deal.
I grew up in the shadow of Jeannette Rankin in Montana, but most of her history I had to learn on my own, as most of what we had learned of her was a couple of sentences about how she was the first woman to hold federal office, the first woman elected to the US Congress and the only member of Congress to vote against going to war in WWI and WWII. It was like a novelty that the first woman elected to Congress was from our home state. It wasn't until I did my own reading on Ms. Rankin that she was elected twice to the US House: the first time in 1916 (before she could vote for herself), and then again 24 years later in 1940. She was instrumental in initiating the legislation that led to the 19th Amendment, allowing women free and unrestricted access to the vote. As she said, she was the only women who was allowed to vote to give women the vote.
Her statue stands both in the US Capitol building and the Montana state capitol building, a statue of her holding her "I cannot vote for war" speech with a Susan B. Anthony dollar attached to the back.
Imagine that: she was the only member of Congress to vote against entering the war after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. She was harassed, she was booed, she was told by even her own brother that everyone was against her. But she stood on her principles. She didn't expect everyone to agree, but she also didn't back down. While her action was widely ridiculed in the press, William Allen White, writing in the Kansas Emporia Gazette, acknowledged her courage in taking it:
Probably a hundred men in Congress would have liked to do what she did. Not one of them had the courage to do it. The Gazette entirely disagrees with the wisdom of her position. But Lord, it was a brave thing! And its bravery someway discounted its folly. When, in a hundred years from now, courage, sheer courage based upon moral indignation is celebrated in this country, the name of Jeannette Rankin, who stood firm in folly for her faith, will be written in monumental bronze, not for what she did, but for the way she did it.
I grew up in a home that encouraged me, as a woman, to pursue my own dreams and desires, no matter what they would be. I had mentors who pushed me to aim high (when I thought I wanted to be a developmental psychologist, a friend asked if I had considered psychiatry and medical school). But I also had detractors: a teacher who patted my head and told me I'd never need math, classmates who insisted that girls should just be teachers and housewives, and leave the work to the men.
These firsts are important firsts for me. Because they should not have been firsts. They should be old hat by now. It's 2016, for crying out loud.
I love this country, and I am proud to be one of her citizens. But I also expect more of my country, of my fellow citizens. And it's for that reason that I vote every election. It's the reason that I cast the vote I did yesterday. It's the reason that my hope for my country is unwavering, and I'll continue to take my inspiration from Ms. Rankin.