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Our View: Imagine if everyone voted

The Union Editorial Board

Imagine what it was like 100 years ago.

We’d gotten though World War I as victors. Woodrow Wilson was still in the White House. Prohibition would start in January of that year, though the decade itself would be characterized as “roaring.” We were just emerging from a deadly pandemic.

And women still didn’t have the right to vote.

That would change in August 1920 with the passage of the 19th Amendment.

“The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”

Those words took a long time to become law. Aaron Sargent first penned them 42 years before Tennessee became the last state needed to ratify the amendment and make it the law of the land.

The journey to give women the right to vote began long before 1878, when Sargent wrote those words.

Opponents had all kinds of reasons to oppose women’s suffrage. The National Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage had some doozies. “It is unwise to risk the good we already have for the evil which may occur.” “In some states more voting women than voting men will place the government under petticoat rule.”

What’s next? Witchcraft? No doubt some folks were concerned.

It’s easy to look into the past through a contemporary lens and scoff at these arguments. At the time, however, these were significant hurdles women had to pass if they were to gain suffrage.

The American family would dissolve were women allowed to vote. Next thing you know, they’d want jobs.

Arguments that appear facetious, even silly, to us were foundational to those who sought to deny women the vote — not least among them men who feared the loss of power and control. The rubble left in the wake of those arguments’ destruction formed the foundation for the women of today. The 19th Amendment laid an edifice that our country has built upon since, leading the way to women in positions of political power that would have been unthinkable 100 years ago.

Nevada County has a female sheriff, county executive officer, tax assessor, treasurer-tax collector and auditor-controller. Western county’s two cities have female mayors. The chairwoman of the Board of Supervisors is a woman.

This is just a small sampling of the women who hold political office in our community.

There are many reasons why we observe anniversaries. They give us a chance to reflect on where we’ve been, and remember what it took to get where we are. But they also provide an opportunity for us to look ahead to where we want to go.

The past is a chapter already written and set in stone. The future is the chapter not yet penned.

So let’s get to writing it.

Much of our history is written by the men and women who get the spotlight on the national and world stage. They fill history books with their words and deeds.

But it’s us, the regular, everyday people, that in our democracy put them on that stage. We place them front and center every time we cast a ballot. We send them packing or give them a few more years when they want an extension of their job.

The 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote, though everyone should respect and honor that right, and exercise it, regardless of gender. It’s a right not everyone on this planet has, and we are fortunate, as Americans, to wield it.

Imagine what our country would look like if everyone who could vote did, and exercised that right regularly.

Just imagine.

The weekly Our View editorial represents the consensus opinion of The Union Editorial Board, a group of editors and writers from The Union, as well as informed community members. Contact the board at EditBoard@TheUnion.com.

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