EXERCISING OUR RIGHT by Michelle Bobrow
It’s time to vote
The Virginia Slims slogan of the 1960s and ’70s was “You’ve come a long way, baby” and we women certainly have. From the inception of the women’s movement for suffrage in 1848 it took 70 years to gain sufficient momentum for the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920 allowing women the “privilege” to vote. (New Jersey women had enjoyed suffrage for nearly 20 years, beginning in 1789. But who had the right? Not women of color. Not immigrants. Not the poor. And we still fight to enfranchise all women for that right.)
I was fortunate to have been born into an educated, professional family, in a progressive suburb with a good school system. I attended college in the years when women were beginning to take higher education as a given, and not just as a finishing school, earning a degree to support myself if, and when, needed. My parents knew of too many women who were left single with no means of earning a living and did not want that for their daughter. They were first generation, with expectations of doing better than their parents, and working hard to enter the middle class.
I’ve been involved with social service organizations all my adult life. But the League of Women Voters (LWV) spoke to me when I wanted stimulating conversation with interesting and involved people, ready to roll up our sleeves and go out drumming up interest in elections, explaining the issues of the day and their importance.
The LWV is a grassroots organization that exists to create a more perfect democracy through education, engagement and empowerment – focusing on voter registration, local debates, and life issues in a nonpartisan yet activist manner.
We worked on elimination of New Jersey’s death penalty, creation of the position of lieutenant governor, the lowering of the minimum voting age to 18, and creating standards for clean air and water. We also collaborated with local groups at the public works yard on recycling day, heaving bundles of paper, crushing cans and breaking bottles to ready them for the recyclers.
Our work has also involved interviewing municipal officials and producing booklets to help new residents get to know their town and schools. We’ve taught elementary-age students and a Girl Scout troop about the history of Maplewood, taking them to various Maplewood offices to see how local government works. And during graduation rehearsal, we held voter registration drives at Columbia High School, and answered many questions from seniors about upcoming elections and about voting when they went off to college.
I’ve been active with the LWV not only in Maplewood, but also with the state, where I serve as a debate moderator and hold nonpartisan voter registration training sessions for volunteers.
This election year is different than any other year I’ve seen and it’s all the more important for everyone of voting age – especially women – to vote. All registered voters will receive a ballot beginning September 29 and should return it by mail or in a ballot drop box at the Police Building, or at their polling location. Register to vote if you have not done so, if you will be 18 by November 3, or have changed your address, at nj.gov/state/elections. Polls are open but only for a provisional ballot or those who are physically unable to fill out a ballot.
I’m still working on getting the message out, obtaining converts, and decreasing our long way to go, baby.
Michelle is a member of the League of Women Voters of Maplewood-South Orange who hopes that she has infected her granddaughter with her passion for the political process.