When I was young, my mother told me that boys and girls were equal and that I could do whatever I wanted in life. I believed her. Of course there were occasions when I received mixed messages, such as the “woman driver” jokes I heard some older relatives tell. I assumed that these cynical opinions about gender were perversions. Given time and some education, these carriers of negativity would see the light. After all, Mother knew best. Boys and girls were equal.
It took years before I realized that the story of the suffrage movement and women’s role in history had disappeared into a deep dark hole and someone needed to do something about it. Me, for example. When I watch vintage film footage of suffragists marching in the streets today, I can’t help myself. Whether it’s the film Iron Jawed Angels or the documentary Not for Ourselves Alone, it doesn’t matter. I wipe away tears and think about how most of my life I’d also been influenced by the party line. You know –how the suffrage movement is yesterday’s news and an old fashioned movement without much to teach us today.
The more I dig into Grandmother Edna’s archives and papers, the more I’m certain that the suffrage story is finally coming into its own. I’m amazed at the persistence and sophistication of these marvelous activists. My grandmother was a grassroots mover and shaker who understood how to build personal and community power. She believed in and carried out the basic principles of community organizing. Tens of thousands of other suffrage activists like Edna led the way, so as women we have this in our DNA –whether or not we have a certified suffragist activist in our family line. Tens of thousands of women participated in the movement and their names will never be known. Which is why I persist in telling the suffrage story. Thank you for coming along with me for the ride.
“Marguerite’s Musings” appear on a regular basis in Suffrage Wagon.