08 Nov 2016

Today was the first time I was excited to vote. Today was the first time that I wept several times when voting. I came home from work, and changed into white to honor the suffragettes.  I cast my vote for the first woman president. I stared at the ballot, savoring her name, officially there.

I wept seeing a disabled man, in a very elaborate and technically advanced wheelchair, pushing his control button to drive towards the voting booth. I remember the Republican candidate, mocking a disabled reporter and having a 12-year old boy with cerebral palsy ejected from a rally.

I wept remembering my grandmothers, rebels in their time, struggling to live unfettered.  When they were born, women couldn’t vote, have a checking account, or find reliable and safe birth control.

Margie, my maternal grandmother, ran away from home at 17, marrying a much older man, John Leonard.  That was the only way women could leave home in those days. She and her husband moved to Akron, Ohio, where she worked at the Goodyear rubber factory. The marriage ended in divorce. Margie inked out all mention of her first marriage in family genealogies, because it was shameful for a woman to be divorced in the 1920s.  In WWII, she had a job as a telegraph operator, and gave it up as soon as the soldiers came home and needed their jobs back.

Millie, my paternal grandmother, was a wife and mother all her life. She wanted to be a nurse, but nice Jewish girls didn’t do that. (Her sister Sarah had a glorious voice and could have had a stage career, but again, nice Jewish girls didn’t do that.) Millie did get to marry the man of her choice, something her mother couldn’t do because nice Jewish girls had arranged marriages in the 1890s.

Millie had the money and resources to go to the Margaret Sanger clinic in New York and get fitted with a diaphragm, quasi-illegal in the 1920s. When the last of her 3 sons left home, and she went into menopause, she became so emotionally labile that my grandfather wanted her to see a psychiatrist, a suggestion meant to shame her into good behavior.  How better her life might have been had she been able to work as a nurse and put her considerable drive and energy to good use.

I wept for their struggles and realize that as white women, their lives were still more privileged than many.

Tonight I feel anxious and don’t want to watch the returns come in. This election has made me sick, with its bias and gutter conduct and violence.  I am glad that it will soon be over.

The work is just beginning, and I am ready to do my best.

2016-vote

 

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